SPECIES REVIEW 4
Euastacus balanensis is a dwarf group crayfish that prefers the marginal areas of creeks and streams of the Atherton Tableland of Queensland.
They are usually not found in the larger streams but will use them to migrate typically when in flood. They keep to the margins of the main streams and will also travel overland along the riparian zones.
Typically they make camp and populate the smaller feeder streams, creating deep and extensive burrow systems. We have captured them abundantly in micro streams with flowing water and occasionally from streams with no surface water but flowing subsurface water but it’s a species we just have not done enough research on, so lots of questions as to what they can and cannot tolerate re habitat.
We captured two different colours from the same stream, not 100% sure as to why, are they different colour variations or just different moult cycle colours. Many crayfish species when freshly moulted have a lighter or different coloured new shell that takes many weeks to darken into the typical adult colouration. Again more questions.
The species has been collected in tropical rainforests at altitudes above 750 m a.s.l. on the Atherton Tableland, west of Cairns and from the Bellenden Ker Range, Russel River, Mulgrave Rive, Davies Creek and Kauri Creek. The higher the elevation the more plentiful.
3 mesial carpal spines, the largest/distalmost offset from other 2 (occasionally 3)
They have a reasonably wide distribution but total population numbers seem to be very low. They are a high altitude cool water species of conservation concern and more research on this species is desperately needed. All Euastacus species of all sizes except E. hystricosus, E. sulcatus, E. suttoni and E. valentulus are fully protected in Queensland. Current IUCN Status: Endangered.
For further information, scant as it is get the book “A Guide to Australia’s Spiny Freshwater Crayfish” https://www.aabio.com.au/products-page/
SPECIES REVIEW 3
Euastacus australasiensis is an intermediate group crayfish that is shy and elusive, rarely being seen even when high populations are present.
They attain a maximum size of over 200g, (we just dont know how big they grow-large animals are too smart to be caught, but there are some very big burrows out there so we expect some very big animals still to be documented). The largest specimen in the ACP collection is 191 gram and 70.05 mm OCL from someone’s backyard, in a tributary of Leura Creek in the Blue Mountains.
They are active both day and night and it is usually the smaller 10 to 30 g weight range that can be seen wandering their small pools from about mid-afternoon. Any movement from an observer, however, will see them disappearing under cover, as they are a secretive species with the large adults rarely coming out of their burrows during the day.
They are scavengers foraging both in the streams and along the banks, are relatively nonaggressive to each other, both small and large crayfish will often live in close proximity. Breeding commences in May to June each year with relatively small broods of 100 to 150 crimson eggs.
Euastacus australasiensis prefers clean, clear mountain streams and small rivers that drain through predominantly sandstone country from near sea level to over 1200 m a.s.l. That said it’s an adaptable species that will colonise any permanently wet area from swamps and bogs to roadside drains and seepages.
Distribution includes all rivers and coastal streams between Narara Creek to Patonga and to Scarborough in the south. Found in tributaries of Hawkesbury (Pittwater, Mooney Mooney, Mangrove, Berowra and Cowan creeks), McDonald, Colo, Grose, Nepean, Coxs and Wollondilly rivers, etc., and Middle Harbour, Lane Cove, Parramatta, Georges and Hacking rivers.
Found in the largest Australian urban areas like Sydney and Gosford, this species can be bright red looking just like a cooked crayfish.
Typically they share their habitat areas with Euastacus spinifer juveniles. Euastacus australasiensis can easily be distinguished from E. spinifer by: by the presence of a male cuticle partition (which can be difficult to see when small. But more easily seen: Euastacus australasiensis has 3 mesial carpal spines whilst E. spinifer has only 2.
Euastacus australasiensis has few to no thoracic spines whilst E. spinifer has lots (usually 2 rows of large dark thoracic spines).
All intermediate group species are protected by default in New South Wales as they do not reach the minimum recreational size of 9 cm OCL that is in place for all New South Wales Euastacus species. IUCN Status: Least Concern. Generally they are not subject to rampant illegal fishing like other species but are attracted to baited traps so easily captured. Being an urban species they are highly susceptible to urban pollution. Readily available pesticides like Bifenthrin pesticide that can be readily purchased over the counter to control ants are a major concern. These type insecticides are having a devastating impact on this urban species. People buy this insecticide and irresponsibly sprinkle it all over their lawns and road reserves. When it rains this poison ends up in the drains and then the local creek where it is highly toxic and then kills all the crayfish. Anything that kills one invertebrate generally kills them all.
These pesticides need to be banned as over the counter readily available poisons. Irresponsible idiots should not be allowed to purchase these insecticides and ONLY RESPONSIBLE PROFESSIONALS TRAINED IN THE THE APPLICATION AND DISTRIBUTION OF THESE POISONED SHOULD BE LICENCED TO USE THEN!
Another current ACP Project concerns this species in western drainage of NSW. Stay tuned for updated as this project progresses.
Project: 100032 Euastacus australasiensis – Aspects of Biology, Ecology and Distribution.
ACP SPECIES REVIEW 2
The Murray cray is Australia’s second largest crayfish species growing to over 3 kg in weight. The largest being Astacopsis gouldi for Tasmania. The Murray Crayfish has a dark green to green-brown body with black or white spines on carapace and very large white spines on their abdomen. They are an iconic species with large white claws.
This is the largest of the Euastacus species with the widest distribution of all the Euastacus crayfish. Endemic to the Murray and Murrumbidgee river systems and occurs throughout the tributaries of these rivers (New South Wales, ACT, Victoria and South Australia). It can be found in permanent water from 50 m a.s.l. to just over 800 m and prefers cool, flowing water but a relatively adaptable species inhabiting lakes and dams on our rivers.
This is a slow growing species taking 8 to 10 years to reach sexual maturity. Females then may breed only once per year with 200-2000 eggs depending on size.
The IUCN Red List Status = Data Deficient; that’s a weird listing, “I don’t get it!” This is the Euastacus species with the most information available with the longest historical records. There is more data available on this species than all other 50 Euastacus species combined!
The Murray Crayfish is listed at a State level as a vulnerable species in NSW and the ACT, and threatened in Victoria. It is a protected species in South Australia.
Active both day and night, and as scavengers are readily attracted to baits. Burrows vary with location from deep with multiple entrances to rudimentary, just under a rock or log. Murray Crays were once the subject of a major commercial fishery. Commercial fishing started in the mid 1800’s, but significant declines in numbers and sustainability concerns forced the commercial fishery to close in 1988. Since then recreational fishing has continued for this species and now illegal fishing is threatening the species future.
Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of our State management agencies, illegal fishing for undersized and females with eggs continues to seriously impact this species future.
ACP SPECIES REVIEW 1.
This is the planet’s rarest Euastacus species. Only two specimens have ever been captured, both from the Border Ranges National Park in northern NSW.
These are the only photos of the species in life. It’s a remarkable species and we just dont know much about it. It shares the streams with the juveniles of a much larger giant group species Euastacus sulcatus and another dwarf group species Euastacus dalagarbe.
This specimen was captured during an Euastacus dalagarbe survey. We sampled this abundant species and examined 98 of them and then found our one and only Euastacus angustus.
Morphologically, E. angustus is most similar to E. dalagarbe with which it shares its habitat. It is also similar to Euastacus jagabar found lower down the same catchments. The three species can be distinguished in that E. angustus has a distinctive laterally compressed chephalothorax (head/carapace), increased development of both ventral and ventromesal spines, twin large teeth on the propodal cutting edge, and a small expodite on 3rd maxilliped. It also has a distinctive gastric mill. The three species also differ in colour.
Despite the ACP’s extensive surveys that captured large numbers of Euastacus dalagarbe and Euastacus sulcatus only the one specimen of this species has been captured from and ephemeral creek bed habitat with subsurface water and an intricate burrow system through rocky and muddy substrate. Little is known on species biology, however the stomach contents of the one specimen collected was made up of detrital grass and wood fibres.
Currently only known from only one sites in the Border Ranges National Park. From a cool, small, ephemeral, forested, highland stream at 808m a.s.l.
Regional climate change modeling predicts both warmer and drier conditions, with reduced soil moisture and runoff. Consequently, climate change can be expected to lead to declines in the amount and quality of the limited habitat available for this rare species. Currently this species and all small species of Euastacus are protected in NSW under the Fisheries Management Act.
Special thanks to Paul Van der Werf for all his efforts and assistance with ACP field collections and his quick hands that captured the original specimen of this species.
During routine “Pure Research” as part of the Australian Crayfish Project we were attempting to map the distributions of known species in central western drainage of NSW. This involves opportunistic surveying of any available streams as we drive rural backroads attempting to head in a general direction.
You may think this is easy, but it’s not by any means. We have a general plan before we leave, mostly planned by google maps. When we are on the ground we are use our Hema GPS and Garmin GPS plus a number of other phone apps in the vehicle. Unfortunately, none of them are accurate, all our maps indicate the road continues but that’s not the fact. We will travel an hour up a back road but come to a locked gate, or the road ends, or it’s a private property, or a deep river crossing. We then need to back track an hour, travel 2 hours around to the other side of the road, survey it then head back to camp.
Most of western NSW is rural grazing properties and significantly habitat altered. This restricts our surveying efforts to the creek and river crossing on whichever road we end up on. Despite the difficulties, we persevere and have good results.
Surprisingly at a random creek crossing we found this animal. Now it does not like anything unusual or significant until you have a closer look. This crayfish has 4 mesial carpal spines which is very significant.
The majority of NSW crayfish with 4 mesial carpal spines are all restricted to the far north of the state in the rainforests. The species with 4 mesial carpal spines are Euastacus girurmalayn, Euastacus guruhgi, Euastacus jagaba, Euastacus maidae and Euastacus mirangudjin. All of these species are in eastern drainage.
Queensland has a mass of species with 4 spines but once you get below the NSW/Qld border area the species with 4 spines are restricted to just 2. In NSW in eastern drainage you have Euastacus reductus and in Victoria you have Euastacus diversus.
This new species represents the first species of Euastacus with 4 mesial carpal spines ever found in western drainage. Interestingly, the spines are in a relatively straight row, unlike the spines of the border range Euastacus. Among other things I’m researching Euastacus maidae from the upper Tweed and Currumbin Creek area . This is one I caught in early May 2019 (ACP6345), note the mesial carpal spines are not in a straight row, the first two spines are offset to the other two.
Its early days yet and we will now start a “Strategic Research Project” to describe this new species. This will be a slow process as Im just a volunteer doing all this research out of my own pocket with the help of some of you generous people that donate to the project. Every day in the field requires 2 days in the lab, processing specimens and writing up results and papers. Plus vehicle costs are astronomical with over 50,000 km/year travelled looking for crayfish. If anyone has some spare cash please contribute.
Describing a species is important, without a name and when no one knows that the species exists then any sort of conservation is impossible. Formal description of a species provides the information the management agencies need to help conserve the species and provides support to catchment and landcare groups that are concerned with riparian zone repair and stream health in which the crayfish species lives.
Research continues on Euastacus reductus, a true dwarf group crayfish from mid-eastern New South Wales. It can be found in a wide range of habitats from flowing streams to seepages and swamps. This is the most widespread and prolific dwarf group species in Australia, but despite its wide distribution, it’s an elusive species that most people never know occurs in their area.
A nocturnal species that is rarely captured in a trap. A typical dwarf group species inhabiting marginal areas away from the deep permanent water that other more aggressive and outgoing species occur. It’s these species that are typically captured in large numbers in traps.
An extensive burrower with multiple entrances and multiple chambers, with the individual immature and male crayfish seeming to have multiple burrows that they move between. Burrows extend deep into the forest floor, with numerous entrances well above water level. Much of this intricate and complex burrow system is high and dry, with these crayfish spending much of their time within dry burrow systems.
This road is a good 70 metres above the local creek, however its the south side of the mountain and damp conditions and seepages are common on south facing mountain sides.
There is seepage water in the drain beside the road but just damp conditions up the mountain side. This is very suitable habitat for E. reductus with none of the other species in the area wanting this marginal habitat area.
Capturing specimens is difficult, the area can be riddled with burrows entrances but it may be days, weeks or years before the crayfish would use that entrance/exit. We are currently experimenting with both mist net snares and modified Norrocky traps to capture crays.
Distribution (Extract from The Spiny Freshwater Crayfish book)
This is the most widespread and prolific dwarf group species in Australia. Found from the Wilson–Maria River catchment in the north to the northern side of the Hunter River in the south in eastern flowing small streams and the marginal areas of larger streams and rivers. Drainages include the Hunter, Paterson, Williams, Karuah, Myall, Coolongolook, Wallamba, Manning, Hastings and Wilson rivers. They are a broad altitude species ranging from 30 to 900 m a.s.l., but are most common in the 150 to 500 m range. The most northern populations (Wilson River drainage) share the streams with E. dangadi. Further south they share with E. spinifer, E. polysetosus, E. spinichelatus, Euastacus sp. 3, Cherax setosus and Gramastacus lacus.
Research continues and eventually we will publish a paper documenting our results.
Euastacus polysetosus,called the Many-Bristled Crayfish by some are an intermediate group crayfish that rarely reaches above 70 grams and 56.6 mm OCL in size. They live in the high altitude, clear, clean, flowing mountain streams of the Barrington Tops Region of NSW. In September 2017 we visited the Barrington Tops region to survey this endangered species.
Euastacus polysetosus is a cool/cold-water species. They will not survive long in elevated water temperatures, being stressed at 22°C and dying rapidly at 26°C. Generally, they are restricted to the smaller tributary streams where they are relatively plentiful. The larger main rivers will have the odd large individual in the deeper pools and juveniles in the marginal habitat areas, but they are relatively rare in these habitats.
Horwitz and Richardson (1986) classified Australian crayfish burrows into three categories based on their relationship with the water-table (Types 1-3). Euastacus polysetosus constructs a burrow system in response to their location in the stream and the maturity of crayfish. Nevertheless, all burrows fit within the “Type 1” category as all burrows are in, or connected to open water.
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The first specimens of this Euastacus species were collected in 2008 by researchers of the Australian Crayfish Project, then over the next 9 years with the assistance of the Australian Museum research group the project continued, finally culminating in the publication of this new species description.
The Cudgegong Giant Spiny Crayfish Euastacus vesper is described from the upper reaches of the Cudgegong River, east of Kandos NSW. The description was published in May 2017 in the international journal Zootaxa. Zootaxa is a peer-reviewed international journal for rapid publication of high quality papers on any aspect of systematic zoology.
Euastacus vesper sp. nov., a new giant spiny crayfish (Crustacea, Decapoda, Parastacidae) from the Great Dividing Range, New South Wales, Australia
ROBERT B. MCCORMACK & SHANE T. AHYONG
Both Euastacus armatus and Euastacus vesper occur in the upper Cudgegong River and this has led to much confusion in the past. Additionally, E. vesper resembles Euastacus spinifer that occurs in the adjoining eastern drainage of the Hunter and Hawkesbury rivers. Whiterod et al 2016 completed a study on the Murray Crayfish Euastacus armatus. In that study they found that the E. armatus population in the upper Cudgegong River is more than likely a translocated population.
Preliminary surveying of the area indicate the distribution of the new species is restricted to a relatively small area. This area has been dramatically altered by a series of dams, rampant land clearing and rural development extracting water. Add a translocated giant spiny competitive species and heavy recreational fishing pressure all ads up to extreme danger to the long term survival of this unique species.
The next project for Shane and I will be to complete a full survey of the whole area to define the exact distribution of this new species. Once that’s completed we can complete an accurate conservation assessment. Initially, we would expect a listing of Critically Endangered would be appropriate for this new species
In this study, we formally describe the new Euastacus species, increasing the number of species of Euastacus to 53. A number of other new Euastacus are currently in preparation so this number will rise in the near future, stay tuned.
Nick S. Whiterod, Sylvia Zukowski, Martin Asmus, Dean Gilligan and Adam D. Miller. 2016.Genetic analyses reveal limited dispersal and recovery potential in the large freshwater crayfish Euastacus armatus from the southern Murray–Darling Basin. Marine and Freshwater Research. http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MF16006
On a recent ACP Survey of the lower north eastern coast of NSW we captured an amazing number of freshwater crabs, shrimps, fish, giant spiny crayfish and this intermediate crayfish. Euastacus dangadi is a relatively small, coastal, freshwater, intermediate crayfish with a large distribution in north eastern New South Wales. The species can grow to just over 200 grams in weight but typically animals in the 50-70 gram weight are the most common large crayfish. Most populations are easily identified by their orange/red claws. Being an intermediate crayfish they can occur with both dwarf crayfish and giant spiny crayfish.
Euastacus dangadi is relatively widespread and prolific, currently listed as “Least concern” on the IUCN Red List. It is found in coastal mountain streams of New South Wales from north of Coffs Harbour to Telegraph Point in the south and Rolland Plains, Dorrigo and Nymboida in the west. Generally, the smaller more intermittent streams or flowing streams in the upper catchments have the largest populations. The shallower feeder streams with few eels are the preferred habitat. They are a lowland species found from 50 m to 550 m a.s.l. Drainages include the Clarence, Nambucca, Bellingen, Macleay and Wilson river systems.
These are from the Bellingen area from small, clear, flowing side streams feeding the main river. In the main rivers throughout the area you will not find them in the large deep pools, they are mostly restricted to the margins, shallow riffle areas and feeder streams, to avoid the predators like eels, turtles and bass that infest the main rivers.
All small Euastacus species are protected by default in New South Wales as they do not reach the minimum recreational size limit of 9 cm OCL that is in place for all New South Wales species. Anyone found with this species in their possession is in breach of the Fisheries Management Act and will be subject to prosecution. Look-photograph-but NEVER TAKE.
Photos are of ACP Spec 5903, Kalang River, small male 33.42 gram, 39.30 mm OCL
The Lamington Crayfish (also known as the Mountain or Skeletal Crayfish) Euastacus sulcatus, is best known from its type locality in Lamington National Park, Queensland.
A member of the Giant Spiny Group of crayfish (McCormack 2012) they grow to a large size and are fearless. Typically in the Lamington NP area they are a vivid blue and bright white colouration making a spectacular crayfish to photograph. They are large, strong and fearless and actively wander the forest floor scavenging and are regularly seen by bushwalkers in the area.
Usually, when you see a photo of a Lamington crayfish it is this typical blue and white colouration, but colour should never be used to identify a species. Euastacus sulcatus is a widespread, well distributed species occurring in both NSW and Qld.
Extract from “A Guide to Australia’s Spiny Freshwater Crayfish”
Distribution: Found along the New South Wales–Queensland border region with a large scattered distribution from 100 m to over 1000 m a.s.l. To the west, on the north branch of Glengallan Creek (Condamine–Darling rivers) and Gap Creek, a tributary of Warrill Creek (Brisbane River). To the east is Mt Tambourine (Queensland) and Mt Warning and Yabbra Range (New South Wales). Drainages include the Tweed, Clarence and Richmond rivers of New South Wales and the Nerang, Albert, Logan, Brisbane and Condamine rivers and Mudgeeraba, Tallebudgera and Currumbin creeks, Queensland.
Across this vast distribution and different drainages, the general colour of the species varies considerably.
In the far west of their distribution in the Main Range, Queensland. In the North Branch Creek of Glengallen Creek (Condamine–Darling river drainage, Qld) they are a darker green colour with very pale white colourations in spines and claws.
Further south Steamers Creek a tributary of Emu Creek south branch, Emu Vale State Forest (Condamine-Balonne-Darling River drainage, Qld). These E. sulcatus have more brown in their colouration with small white highlights.
Further east in Sheepstation Creek, Border Ranges National Park (Richmond River drainage, NSW), brown, blue and green with larger white highlights.
Then nearby in Brindle Creek, Border Ranges National Park (Richmond River drainage NSW), we get a rusty red colouration with the large bright white highlights.
Further east in a tributary Bean Creek, Yabbra State Forest (Clarence River drainage), again we get the rusty red colouration with bright white highlights.
Currumbin Creek, Queensland the well known fluorescent blue and white colouration. This is mostly blue with little white colour.
Mount Tamborine, (Albert River drainage, Qld), this one has it all, brown, green, blue and white.
Finally, this Euastacus sulcatus from Cave Creek, Natural Bridge, Springbrook National Park, (Nerang River drainage, Qld). This is the rare, pure white variation. You are very lucky if you see one of these.
Euastacus sulcatus prefers rainforest stream that are clear and clean and nearly always flowing, they have gravel, sand and rock bottoms with lots of boulders and a sediment layer that is fine and black from the surrounding rain forests. Large crays will be found in the main permanent streams but juveniles will be forced to the margins and found in the marginal areas away from permanent flowing water. Like all juveniles of the giant spiny group of crayfish E. sulcatus juveniles have the bands on the 1st and 6th somites. The band on the first somite fades by the first year but the 6th lingers longer (August), claw tips remain cream.
They are a hissing species like most spiny group crayfish. Anything over 70 gram will happily hiss away at you, as they try to attack you with their raised claws. These little critters do not take any lip from anybody, they are generally very aggressive. They are a predatory species and will take baits so are relatively easily captured, making them extremely vulnerable to capture and theft. All Euastacus sulcatus all sizes in both Queensland and New South Wales are protected and it is illegal to have one in your possession. Please, do your bit to help preserve this vulnerable species. Look, enjoy and take a photo, but don’t take them.
McCormack, R.B. 2012. A guide to Australia’s Spiny Freshwater Crayfish. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Victoria. ISBN 978 0 643 10386 3