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Goal: Deliver Benefits to the Public Two new crayfish species discovered in Alabama and Mississippi

Left: The Banded Mudbug (Lacunicambarus freudensteini). Right: The Lonesome Gravedigger (Lacunicambarus mobilensis) is every bit as colorful as its name. (Courtesy photos by Guenter Schuster)

Introduction

The Southeastern U.S. is home to more freshwater crayfish species than anywhere else in the world. Alabama alone has almost 100 species, while Mississippi claims nearly 65. Discovering two new southeastern crayfish species—especially while searching for only one—is remarkable.

Summary

Nine years after researchers found a crayfish that didn’t look quite like the species they were seeking, Mael Glon, a Ph.D. candidate at Ohio State University, and USDA Forest Service scientist Susie Adams returned to Mobile Bay for two weeks in January 2020. Along with colleagues, they discovered not one, but two new species of burrowing crayfishes: the Lonesome Gravedigger (Lacunicambarus  mobilensis) and the Banded Mudbug (L. freudensteini). Both species are small, ecologically important, and beautiful—with vibrant combinations of olive green, blue, or brown, and orange and red highlights.

The research contributes to a fundamental part of conservation work: understanding the size of a species’ range. The Lonesome Gravedigger has a 400 square mile range, and the Banded Mudbug is limited to an area about half that size between Mobile Bay and the Pascagoula River.

A restricted range increases a species’ sensitivity to environmental change. The Banded Mudbug may be further limited by its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico. Its burrows are located at low elevations, and rising sea levels and saltwater intrusion could threaten the species’ long-term survival.

Further research is necessary to understand the life history of these crayfishes, refine their conservation status, and define threats to their persistence.

One such threat includes dams and their associated impoundments. A recent study by SRS scientists Zanethia Barnett and Susie Adams, with colleagues from the University of Mississippi, shows that dams restrict movement and gene flow which can genetically isolate and increase chances of local extinction of crayfish populations.

Principal Investigator
Susan B. Adams, Team Leader / Research Fisheries Biologist
RWU
4155 - Center for Bottomland Hardwoods Research
Strategic Program Area
Wildlife and Fish
Publication
Two new species of burrowing crayfish in the genus Lacunicambarus (Decapoda: Cambaridae) from Alabama and Mississippi
CompassLive Articles
Two New Species of Crayfish Discovered in Alabama and Mississippi
Dams & Crayfish Genetics
External Partners
Mael Glon - Ohio State University
Zachary Loughman and Greg Myers - West Liberty University
Christopher Taylor - Illinois Natural History Survey
Guenter Schuster - Eastern Kentucky University