Crayfish Essay

965 words - 4 pages

The crayfish, also called crawfish or crawdad, is a freshwater invertebrate that falls in the Kingdom Animalia. They are arthropods that belong to the largest crustacean order, the Decapoda, and are related to the saltwater lobster. This order constitutes the families Astacidae (Northern Hemisphere), Parastacidae, or Austroastracidae (Southern Hemisphere). There are many different genera of the crayfish found all over the world. The most common genera of North America include Procambarus, Orconectes, Faxonella, Cambarus, Cambarellus, and Pacifastacus. The most probable crayfish to be found at Rice Creek would be the Cambarus robustus. Austropotamobius is the most common genus of Europe. "Crayfish occur in a wide variety of freshwater habitats and are (or were) naturally widespread in all continents of the world except Antarctica and, surprisingly, Africa" (Sutcliffe, 2002, p297). There are more than 500 species of crayfish, more than half of which occur in North America alone. Crayfish are also found in Europe, New Zealand, and East Asia. These animals are nocturnal so they hide in mud burrows or under rocks and bottom debris during the day and they search for food at night. Their diet at Rice Creek, as well as around the world, includes snails, oligochaetes, small fish; such as minnow, guppies, and goldfish; aquatic insects, aquatic plants, and dead or decaying organisms."The crayfish is the largest mobile macroinvertebrate in temperate freshwater ecosystems" (Holdich & Lowery, 1988, p.1). Crayfish are usually 3-4 inches in length. The smallest crayfish, Cambarellus diminutus are about 1 inch long and are found in the southeastern United States. "Astacopsis gouldi on the other hand is one of the largest found in Tasmania which has a length of 40 cm (15 inches) and has a weight of about 3.5 kg (8 pounds)" (Daniel, 2002). The cylindrical-shaped body of the crayfish is covered by a thick exoskeleton, which molts while it grows. There are advantages and disadvantages to having an exoskeleton. The exoskeleton protects the animal from other crayfish and predators like trout and bass, but when it is molted the animal is very vulnerable until the new exoskeleton hardens. Some other predators include eels, pike, chub, perch, herons, mink, otters, snakes, and people.The crayfish is usually characterized by having a head connected to the thorax, which is called a cephalothorax. The cephalothorax is then connected to the abdomen, which is connected to segmented tail. "The abdomen is approximately thirty percent of the carapace length" (Hobbs, 1987, p.31). The tail can be used to rapidly dart backward if threatened. On the cephalothorax there are two compound eyes, which are attached to movable stalks. These stalks help the animal protect its eyes by retracting them if danger approaches. The crayfish also has a pointy nose and a pair of sensory antennae on its head. There are four pairs of walking legs attached to the thorax. Aside from walking...

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