A new species of crawfish has been discovered in New Zealand, but don’t get your gumbo pots out yet. They are tiny! There is not enough meat in their little tails to make a crawfish boil with these critters worthwhile. But they are big news in the scientific world.
The new species of crawfish, or crayfish, or mudbug, was discovered near the coasts of Eastern Australia. Robert McCormack of the The Australian Crayfish Project reported the discovery of the Gramastacus lacus in the online journal ZooKeys. The common name is the eastern swamp crayfish.
They are one of the world’s smallest species of crayfish, and are typically only 0.5 to 0.8 inches long (12 to 18 millimeters). The largest of these crayfish found yet was 0.8 inches long and weighed seven grams. It is “so small that it can sit on your finger nail,” according to Dave Armstrong of Earth Times.
Dubbed the “lake yabby” by locals, the diminutive crayfish is found in “ephemoral habitats.” That means that the habitat is fleeting, transient, or lasting a short time. They live in small creeks and swamps that cycle through flooding and drying up. They dig remarkably deep burrows for their size, more than three feet deep (up to one meter).
There is a sister species, known as the Gramastacus insolitus, of western Victoria, but that species of crayfish does not burrow. Instead, they borrow burrows from other larger species of crayfish.
The crawfish have to survive varying kinds of conditions, and protect themselves from predators, including fellow tiny mudbugs. They are reported to be cannibalistic creatures. Other animals that have a taste for the crayfish include birds, turtles, eels, lizards, and water bugs. For defense, the crayfish wave their long claws, called chelae, to ward off predators.
These large claws contribute to their being more nimble in water than on land. When on land, the tiny crayfish have been observed to have an unusual walk. They lift their claws and upper body with their legs, then plunge “down and forward like a swimmer doing the butterfly stroke.” Robert McCormack states, “This up and forward movement is unusual, but the crayfish easily moves up, forward and down without missing a beat.”
The males grow larger than the females.
There is concern that this new species might already be endangered due to expanding metropolitan areas, and conservation status is pending.
The discovery of the new species of crawfish is exciting news to scientists. But they are still too small to put in a gumbo or an ettouffee.
[images via Bing]