Big Creek Crayfish
Family:Cambaridae (freshwater crayfish), in the order Decapoda (shrimp, crabs and lobsters)
This is a moderately small, brown crayfish without bright colors. Blackish specks and blotches occur over the dorsal surface of the body and pincers (specks most numerous on abdomen). The pincers are moderately broad and heavy.
Size:Adult length: about 1 to 2 1/4 inches.
Habitat and conservation:A headwater species, it occurs exclusively in small, high-gradient rocky creeks. It lives in cavities that it excavates beneath rocks, on riffles or in shallow silt-free ponds. Its distribution largely complements that of the St. Francis River crayfish; the two species might compete because of similarities in habits and habitat.
Foods:Crayfish are generally omnivores, eating a wide variety of plant and animal materials.
Distribution in Missouri:The Big Creek crayfish has a very localized distribution which is centered in Big Creek and its tributaries primarily on the west side of the St. Francis River basin. Other populations occur in Clark Creek and Twelve Mile Creek, direct tributaries of the St. Francis River.
Status:Imperiled; a Species of Conservation of Concern. The Big Creek crayfish occurs only in Missouri and has a very localized distribution in the St. Francis river basin of Iron, Madison and Wayne counties. It is most abundant in Big Creek and its tributaries on the west side of the basin.
Life cycle:Like other Ozark stream crayfish, this species has both a fall and a spring reproductive season. Only a few live to be three years old.
Human connections:In addition to feeding many types of wildlife, crayfish provide food for many species that humans hunt and fish. Crayfish commonly serve as fish bait, and many people eat crayfish, too. Crayfish are fascinating, colorful creatures in their own right, and part of our rich native heritage.
Ecosystem connections:Their opportunistic, omnivorous feeding makes them an important link in the food chain between plants and vertebrates, breaking down plant and other materials that are resistant to decomposition. Crayfish in turn are an important food for many other animals.