Monday, January 24, 2011

More Giant Crayfish

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
the two!"

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.


  1. while scuba diving in comal river in 1989 tx found crayfish size of med.size lobster about 2-3 lbs.

    1. We used to catch really small “crawdaddy’s” in our front yard in the ditch that was overflow water from the San Jacinto River a few streets over and up hill-we were the last house downhill. I’m catching them with bologna a hook and a string but I switched to corn sometimes. Well I was about to go in the house for something when I saw a HUGE one that looked like a baby Lobster. It was going slow. It climbed out of the ditch and was walking across the driveway to the other side. I ran inside to get someone outside to see it but no one believed me and wouldn’t come out!. I cried. When I got back outside, it was gone. I was even more upset! I went in the house & cried myself to sleep that night-even skipped dinner. I was so upset that no one believed me! I always wondered what the heck it was. Remember, this was in my front yard. My dad would whoop me good for lying! This was in New Caney, Texas. Our house flooded a few months later. After we rebuilt, we sold the property & my dad moved us from Texas to Wisconsin.

  2. Did you happen to get a photo? I would be greatly interested in seeing it if you have one.


  3. no was scuba diving and crayfish was hiding in side of bank,beautiful clear water,summer

  4. I have read about and indeed caught a signal crayfish that was 7" long in the San Francisco area. I don't know what all the fuss about a 5" crayfish is

  5. While I was not there, it is very likely that what you found in the Comal was a freshwater Prawn not a Crayfish. Freshwater Prawns are found in several of the spring fed rivers of the Texas Hill Country such as the San Marcos, Comal and the Guadalupe. They are green with bluish pincers and can grow quite large.

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  7. Here in Texas we get crawfish easily six inches quite often (Rawls Creek, Kendall County). The biggest I've seen was about 8-9" trying to identify what species we have right now...