A reader who saw my post on the discovery of a new species of giant crayfish (Barbicambarus simmonsi) in Tennessee, sent in a photo of his own that shows him holding a very large crayfish. The reader found the crayfish in a creek in Arkansas and wondered if it could possibly be another specimen of the newly discovered species.
He sent me the photo asking my opinion and said that he had sent the photo to the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission hoping to get a positive identification. To my untrained eye, the crayfish in the photo looked very much like the newly discovered Barbicambarus simmonsi; however, other than having a taste for them, I am no crayfish expert. So, I decided to go straight to the source. I sent the photo to Dr. Chris Taylor of the University of Illinois. Dr. Taylor is one of the researchers credited with making the discovery of the new species of crayfish in Tennessee. Both inquiries were answered quickly.
From Brian K. Wagner of the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission:
"The crayfish pictured is the Longpincered Crayfish, Orconectes longidititus, which is endemic to the White River basin . The new species described by Taylor & Schuster in Tennessee is in the genus Barbicambarus and differs from our Longpincered Crayfish in having broader chelae (pincers) and setae-covered (furry-looking) antennae. Both of these species are contenders for America ’s largest crayfish honors, but I think our Longpincered Crayfish is the more attractive of
From Dr. Chis Taylor of the University of Illinois:
"Thanks for your note and interest. The animal in the photo is known as the Longpincered Crayfish and is found commonly in the Ozarks. It is indeed a very large species and would give our new species a run for its money."
I would like to thank both Brian Wagner and Dr. Chris Taylor for taking the time to reply to these inquiries. It would have been very easy, and far more typical, especially of a government agency, to just ignore the emailed question. Neither did. I appreciate that very much. It speaks well of them.
So, it seems that the crayfish my reader found is not another specimen of the new species Barbicambarus simmonsi but, instead, a Longpincered crayfish (Orconectes longidtitus). According to the Missouri Conservationist website, the Longpincered crayfish can have a body up to six inches long and pincers and claws almost as large as its body. This species is thought to live only in the White River Basin of southern Missouri and northern Arkansas. Up until a week ago, the Longpincered crayfish was considered to be the largest crayfish in the United States.
While the new species, Barbicambarus simmonsi may be larger than the Lonpincered crayfish of the White River Basin, those who reported it as being twice as large as any other known North American crayfish may have been guilty of a bit of hyperbole. As Dr. Taylor himself said in regard to the crayfish in my reader's photo, "It (longpincered crayfish) is indeed a very large species and would give our new species a run for its money."
While it would have been fun to have helped in establishing the range of a new species, the fact that the crayfish in the photo is not a specimen of the Barbicambarus simmonsi is not bad news. In fact, it is good to know that there is not one, but two, species of enormous crayfish out there.
My thanks to the reader who sent in the photo.