Red Swamp Crayfish

Family: 
Cambaridae (freshwater crayfish) in the order Decapoda (shrimp, crabs, and lobsters)
Description: 

Adults of this species are dark red (nearly black on the carapace) and have a wedge-shaped black stripe on the abdomen. Juveniles are a uniform gray, sometimes overlain by dark wavy lines. The pincers are narrow and long. The carapace is not separated at the middle by a space (areola). The carapace is conspicuously granular (roughened) in adults. The rostrum has lateral spines or notches near its tip. This crayfish most closely resembles the White River crayfish, which differs most obviously in having an areola. Young of the White River crayfish usually have spots on the carapace.

Size: 
Adult length: about 2 1/4 to 4 3/4 inches.
Habitat and conservation: 
The red swamp crayfish is the most abundant large crayfish in many swamps, sloughs and sluggish ditches of the Bootheel lowlands. It prefers substrates of mud or sand, often where there is plenty of organic debris such as logs, sticks or water-soaked tree leaves. It generally avoids streams and ditches with strong flow, where it is replaced by the White River crayfish. The red swamp crayfish burrows during periods of drought or cold.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Occurs widely in the Lowland Faunal Region of southeastern Missouri.
Status: 
This widely distributed species occurs along the Gulf Coastal Plain from the Florida panhandle west to northeastern Mexico and northward along the Mississippi River to the Missouri Bootheel and nearby sections of Illinois. It has been introduced elsewhere in the country and internationally, where it sometimes becomes a pest.
Human connections: 
The most important crayfish, economically, on the continent, with a total harvest from wild and aquacultural sources of more than 50,000 metric tons annually, nearly all from the state of Louisiana. Widely introduced elsewhere, including other countries, it can be a serious invasive pest.
Ecosystem connections: 
Although, in Missouri, it has potential as an aquacultural "crop" in the Bootheel, this species is tremendously valuable, ecologically, for its role as a food for various animals living in wetland areas. Many species that prey on it in turn have economic value for humans.