Meek’s Crayfish

Faxonius meeki (formerly Orconectes meeki)

Meek's crayfish.jpg

Meek's Crayfish
Chris Lukhaup
Species of Conservation Concern
Family

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

Description

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.

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).

Size

Adult length: about 1¾ to 2¼ inches.

Habitat and conservation

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.

Foods

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

image of Meek's Crayfish Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

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.

Status

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.

Human connections

In addition to feeding many types of wildlife, crayfish provide food for many species that humans hunt and fish. 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.