TheFishSite.com - news, features, articles and disease information for the fish industry

News

New Species of Crayfish Discovered in Australia

10 April 2014

AUSTRALIA - Hidden in one of Australia's most developed and fastest growing areas lives one of the world's smallest freshwater crayfish species. Robert B McCormack the Team Leader for the Australian Crayfish Project described the new species belonging to the genus Gramastacus, after eight years of research in the swamps and creeks of coastal New South Wales, Australia.

Being a small crayfish species it has remained undescribed and undiscovered in one of the fastest developing regions of Australia. Only one other species of Gramastacus crayfish is known and it occurs some 900 km away in the Grampians region of Victoria.

This new species is found in lowland ephemeral habitats surrounding coastal lakes and lagoons from Wamberal Lagoon, north along the coastal strip to Wallis Lake. Being dependent on regular natural flooding and drying cycles, only lowland, swampy areas are suitable for this tiny crayfish.

IMAGE NAME/DESCRIPTION
This is the eastern swamp crayfish Gramastacus lacus from the Lake Macquarie catchment.

Credit: Rob McCormack

Each crayfish digs a small rounded cross-section burrow up to one metre deep into the water table to survive the drying cycle. Some areas are riddled with these small burrows as they are a very prolific species and can occur in very high numbers in small habitat areas.

The newly described crayfish are found in one of Australia's most developed regions. Unfortunately, this means that much of their habitat has been lost in the past as these ephemeral areas are the first to be drained or reclaimed to make way for agriculture, industry, housing developments, golf courses, infrastructure, etc. Now, being found and officially described, this crayfish must be considered in any further developments and hopefully future habitat loss will be reduced.

The scattered populations of Gramastacus seem highly fragmented and many are increasingly threatened by a range of risks other than human development. Invasive crayfish, pest fish species like plague minnows and swordtails, rising sea levels and falling water tables all are increasing dangers. Luckily, the large number of National Parks and Reserves along the coastal strip provides safe refuges for some populations.

The study was published in the open access journal ZooKeys.

TheFishSite News Desk



Our Sponsors

Partners



Sustainable Aquaculture Modular Courses AVAILABLE NOW - University of St Andrews

Seasonal Picks

Know Your Freshwater Fishes - 5m Books.com

Aquacullture Webinars from TheFishSite - Sign Up Now