Ringed Crayfish

Ringed Crayfish

Orconectes neglectus
Cambaridae (freshwater crayfish) in the order Decapoda (shrimp, crabs, and lobsters)

This is a medium-sized olive-green to reddish-tan crayfish with prominent black or brown rings around the fingers of its pincers near the tips. The pincers are often very broad and heavy (especially in males) with a broad gap between the fingers when they are closed. A dark band crosses the carapace near its junction with the abdomen. A pair of dark stripes run lengthwise along the abdomen near its lateral (side) margins. No other crayfish within the range of this species has conspicuous black rings on the fingers.

Similar species: Two subspecies occur in Missouri (see below). Another species, the Ozark crayfish, is often found in the same streams; it has about the same size and build but has numerous dark specks on the abdomen and pincers.

Adult length: about 1½ to 3½ inches.
Habitat and conservation: 
Occurs in clear, rocky, permanent-flowing streams ranging in size from small creeks to large rivers. It occurs in rocky riffles and shallow pools having sufficient current to keep the bottom largely free of silt. This crayfish excavates cavities in gravel beneath large rocks. Where it occurs, it is the most abundant crayfish.
Forages at night on algae and detritus. Crayfish are generally omnivores, eating a wide variety of plant and animal materials.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Southwestern Ozark region of Missouri, from the North Fork of the White River in Howell County westward through the White and Spring (Neosho) River basins.
Two subspecies are recognized. O. n. neglectus (the ringed crayfish), in the Spring (Neosho) River basin, is olive-green with orange pincer tips with a black ring. O. n. chaenodactylus (the gap-ringed crayfish), in the North Fork and Bryant Creek drainages, is reddish-tan with broad brown rings on the pincer tips. Populations in intervening streams of the White River basin show a mixture of the characteristics used to separate the two and are considered intergrades.
Life cycle: 
Breeding occurs from October to April and eggs are laid in the spring. Females carry eggs March through June, apparently peaking in April in warmer streams, but later in cooler, spring-fed streams. The young reach about 2 inches in length by the end of their first growing season. Most ringed crayfish live about 2½ years, though some can live as long as 5 years.
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: 
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.
Shortened URL