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Q & A
Crayfish
Question
I often catch crayfish in a stream near my home to use as bait. I've noticed that there seems to be more than one kind. How many different species of crayfish are there around Pennsylvania?
Answer
CrayfishUnfortunately, the information that we have about the current status of crayfish species occurrence and abundance is limited. No comprehensive statewide surveys of crayfish species have been completed since the turn of the century when A.E. Ortmann recorded much of what is now the historic baseline data for PA crayfishes. As far as we know 13 species may occur in Pennsylvania. All are of the family Cambaridae. (At the end of this document is a list of the likely species.)

At the Commission's urging, there are two research projects by the Wild Resource Conservation Fund that will begin to address the lack of information regarding these important crustaceans. One will attempt to develop a photographic key to the Pennsylvania species for use by persons such as yourself. The other project would involve researchers in a coordinated effort to determine the statewide distribution of crayfishes in Pennsylvania and compare that to the early 1900's data.

Across North America most researchers are beginning to realize that aquatic invertebrates are the most endangered of all species due to alterations of the aquatic environment. Freshwater mussels are highest on the list of concern but crayfishes are running a close second. We expect to see increased interest, studies and new information about these species becoming available in the next few years. For now, if you wish to attempt identifications the best source may be to check out a copy of "Freshwater Invertebrates of the U.S." by Robert W. Pennak. A university library is your best bet.

Species in the Family Cambaridae likely in Pennsylvania

  • Cambarus b. bartonii
  • Cambarus bartonii carinirostris
  • Camabrus diogenes
  • Cambarus dubius
  • Cambarus monongalensis
  • Cambarus robustus
  • Cambarus thomai
  • Orconectes limosus
  • Orconectes obscurus
  • Orconectes propinquus
  • Orconectes rusticus
  • Orconectes virilis
  • Procambarus acutus
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