Meek's Crayfish

Meek's Crayfish
Species of Conservation Concern
Scientific Name
Faxonius meeki (formerly Orconectes meeki)
Cambaridae (freshwater crayfish), in the order Decapoda (shrimp, crabs, and lobsters)

Meek's crayfish is a rather plain, reddish-brown crayfish with moderately broad pincers sprinkled with many blackish spots. There is a rather prominent dark spot near the tubercle at the base of the moveable finger. The pincer tips are bright orange. Two inconspicuous dark saddle marks cross the carapace, and a dark mark on the head just in front of the cervical (“neck”) groove. The carapace is a little shorter than the abdomen. The areola is well developed.

Missouri's subspecies of Meek's crayfish is Faxonius meeki meeki.

Similar species: Williams’ crayfish has a pale, vase-shaped pattern on the carapace. Also, it and the Ozark crayfish can be separated from Meek’s crayfish by details of the males’ reproductive anatomy (gonopod shape and size).


Adult length: about 1¾ to 2¼ inches.

Where To Find
image of Meek's Crayfish Distribution Map

In our state, it has been collected in only a few tributaries of Table Rock Lake (the White River drainage) in Stone County. It also occurs in northwestern Arkansas.

This species has been found in small, clear creeks having stable substrates consisting of bedrock, rubble, and coarse gravel. It excavates cavities beneath rocks and has been reported from beneath on-shore rocks or logs that are buried into the water table.

Meek's crayfish has experienced loss of habitat due to the construction of large reservoirs on the White River.

Crayfish are generally omnivores, eating a wide variety of plant and animal materials.

A Missouri species of conservation concern. One of the rarest crayfish species in Missouri.

Life Cycle

Little is known about the life history of this species. With most Missouri crayfish, mating usually occurs in the fall, and females usually lay eggs in the spring, adhering them with a gluelike substance to the swimmerets under the abdomen. After hatching, the young remain attached to their mother’s swimmerets until they have completed 2 molts. They then begin making brief forays away from the mother but return to the safety of her abdomen if they feel threatened.

In addition to feeding many types of wildlife, crayfish provide food for many species that humans hunt and fish. Crayfish are fascinating, colorful creatures and are part of our rich native heritage.

This crayfish was named in honor of Seth Eugene Meek (1897-1914) of the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, by Walter Faxon, the zoologist who first described the species to science. Meek had collected and supplied many specimens of crayfishes that Faxon examined as he prepared his reference books on crayfishes. Among Meek's accomplishments were the first books on Mexican and Panamanian freshwater fishes, and he was one of a pair of biologists, doing field work in the Ozarks, who discovered the Niangua darter. He was also a biology and geology professor at what is now named the University of Arkansas.

Walter Faxon, in turn, was later honored with the name of the crayfish genus Faxonius, in which this species is placed. When he first described the species in 1898, Faxon originally had named it Cambarus meeki, and he noted that "this small species" had been "discovered in northwestern Arkansas by Professor S. E. Meek." As the years passed since then, the species was transferred into genus Orconectes and then into genus Faxonius. Missouri has several species in this genus. Faxon, a prolific researcher of birds and crayfish, is also honored with the crayfish genus Faxonella, which is represented in our state by the shield crayfish (Faxonella clypeata).

Crayfish are an important link in the food chain between plants and other animals, breaking down plant materials that are resistant to decay. Crayfish in turn are an important food for many other animals. Presence of crayfish in a stream or pond usually indicates good water quality.

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About Aquatic Invertebrates in Missouri
Missouri's streams, lakes, and other aquatic habitats hold thousands of kinds of invertebrates — worms, freshwater mussels, snails, crayfish, insects, and other animals without backbones. These creatures are vital links in the aquatic food chain, and their presence and numbers tell us a lot about water quality.