White River Crawfish

Procambarus acutus

white_river_crayfish.jpg

Photo of a White River crawfish.
In Missouri, White River crawfish mostly occur in the Bootheel and northward along the Mississippi River.
Chris Lukhaup
Other Common Name
White River Crayfish
Family

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

Description

Adult White River crawfish are usually a deep burgundy red with a black V-shaped stripe on the abdomen. Juveniles are gray with dark spots scattered over the carapace. The pincers are long and narrow. The carapace is separated at its middle by a space (areola). The carapace is conspicuously granular (roughened) in adults. The White River crawfish resembles the red swamp crawfish, but the latter lacks an areola. Also, young of the red swamp crawfish are usually plain or striped, not spotted.

Size

Adult length: about 2½ to 4 inches.

Habitat and conservation

Inhabits sloughs, swamps, and sluggish lowland streams and ditches. Also found in natural lakes along the floodplains of streams. It frequently burrows to escape drying (in summer) and spends winter in burrows.

Foods

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

image of White River Crawfish White River Crayfish Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

This crayfish occurs commonly in the lowlands of southeastern Missouri, and northward along the floodplain of the Mississippi River to Clark County, although it has recently been introduced into several locations to the west.

Status

A common, widespread crayfish whose range extends along the Atlantic coast from Maine to Georgia, along the Gulf Coast from the Florida panhandle to Mexico, and north in the central Mississippi Valley and in the southern Great Lakes from Minnesota to Ohio.

Life cycle

Males and females apparently pair up in the fall prior to entering burrows, where mating and overwintering occur. It seems that reproduction may occur at any time throughout the year. Details of the life history are not known, even though this is a common and widespread species.

Human connections

This species is used as food and as bait in Louisiana and probably in some other states, and it probably has some potential for use in aquaculture in Missouri. 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. They are an important food for many animals that occur around or in water, including fish, snakes, turtles, wading birds, raccoons, and mink.