IAA22 Book of Abstracts (PDF)

Meeting Program/Schedule (PDF)






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Oral | Posters

Oral Presentations



Day: 2, Session: 1, Talk: 4

An Overview of U.S. Crayfish Conservation in State Agencies and a Plan to Reverse CRAWnic Neglect

Robert J. DiStefano

Crayfish conservation can be accomplished in the United States (U.S.) by federal government, state governments, universities, non-governmental organizations (i.e., The Nature Conservancy), professional societies (e.g., American Fisheries Society), local governments, and private citizens. State fish and wildlife agencies are charged with protecting and managing each state’s aquatic resources, yet crayfish have historically received little attention from them. This is largely due to state funding formulas that rely heavily on sales of recreational licenses (fishing, hunting, etc.), and perceived responsibility of agencies to be more responsive to that segment of the public who buy licenses. Missouri is unique in having established a state conservation program for crayfish decades ago. The program has produced substantial research data on crayfish species distributions, ecology and threats, especially for imperiled and endemic species. It has yielded several conservation actions (e.g., regulations, education products and activities). I will reference Missouri as one possible model for establishing and maintaining a state government (or regional government elsewhere) crayfish conservation program that involves government staff, but also partners from academia and some stakeholder groups. I will conclude by providing a brief update about states’ involvement in U.S. crayfish conservation.



Day: 2, Session: 2, Talk: 2

Female Form Alternation in American Cambarid Species

Tadashi Kawai

American Cambarid species are the most diverse group in the Infraorder Astacidea The group shares a unique key character state, Form Alternation (or Cyclic Dimorphism) of adult males. Form Alternation of isometric and allometric character growth is related to seasonal breeding. In summer Form I males capable of breeding have larger chelae, larger hooks on the ischia of their pereiopods, and cornified terminal elements of their 1st pleopods. They consequently molt to a non-breeding stage (Form II), which has smaller chelae, smaller hooks on the ischia of their pereiopods, and un-cornified terminal elements of their 1st pleopods. Adult Form II males molt back to Form I males for the next breeding season which normally runs in a yearly cycle. Recently it has been reported that Form Alternation also occurs in female members of Cambarus and Faxonius. Form I females display wider abdomens than same-size Form II females, and their annulus ventrali have un-cornified and a more convoluted crest along the longitudinal sinus, with a median sinus that reaches the caudal margin. The author visited the Department of Invertebrate Zoology, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History to access Hobbs' collections. Museum specimens of adult females of four Procambarus and three Cambarellus species were examined to compare abdomen width and morphology of the annulus ventralus between breeding and non-breeding season specimens. Female Form Alternation (as listed above) was observed in all four Procambarus species; Procambarus allenii, P. clarkii, P. fallax, and P. pallidus. However, Form I females do not show wider abdomens than same-size Form II females. Cambarellus montezumae, Cambarellus patzcurensis, and Cambarellus zempoalensis did not show form alteration, and it is concluded that Cambarellus species do not undergo Form Alternation as member of Cambarus, Faxonius, and Procambarus do.



Day: 2, Session: 2, Talk: 3

Cambarus aff. dubius, a New Species of Crayfish (Decapoda: Cambaridae) Endemic to the Pre-glacial Teays River Valley in West Virginia, USA

DAVID A. FOLTZ II., Nicole M. Sadecky, Greg A. Myers, James W. Fetzner Jr., Stuart Welsh, G. Whitney Stocker, Mael G. Glon and Roger F. Thoma

A new species of crayfish, Cambarus aff. dubius, new species, is described from the preglacial Teays River Valley of Cabell, Kanawha, Lincoln, Mason, and Putnam counties, West Virginia. The species was previously considered to be part of the Cambarus dubius complex (Jezerinac et al. 1995). Loughman et al. 2015 restricted C. dubius to an orange color morph found in central and northern portions of the Allegheny Mountains and Appalachian Plateau in central West Virginia, western Maryland, and southcentral Pennsylvania. The new species described herein can be distinguished from all other members of Cambarus by a double row of cristiform tubercles on the palm, an open areola with two rows of punctations, and a consistent blue coloration.



Day: 2, Session: 3, Talk: 3

Modeling Effects of Crayfish Invasion and Drought on Crayfish Population Dynamics

Leah Bayer, Robert Fournier and DANIEL D. MAGOULICK

Crayfish play a crucial ecological role and are often considered a keystone species within freshwater ecosystems. However, North American crayfish species face several environmental and ecological threats including limited natural ranges, invasive species, and intensified drought. Demographic models can allow examination of population dynamics of a targeted species under a wide variety of disturbance scenarios. Here, we model the population dynamics of crayfish species with varied theoretical life histories and assess their responses to biological invasions and drought. We used RAMAS-Metapop to construct stage-based demographic metapopulation models parameterized using vital rates from established literature sources. Our models explored the population viability of four theoretical species under eleven disturbance scenarios and calculated estimates of terminal extinction risk, median time to quasi-extinction, and metapopulation occupancy. Our models indicate that populations respond differentially to disturbance based on life history. However, both r- and K-selected species appear to be highly susceptible to decline when faced with the additive effects of reduced carrying capacity due to invasion and reduced vital rates due to drought. By constructing models that explore a broad array of life histories and disturbance regimes, we hope to provide managers with tools to develop generalized, widely-applicable conservation strategies.



Day: 2, Session: 3, Talk: 5

Using Maximum Entropy Modeling to Predict Suitable Habitat Locations for the Cutshin Crayfish (Cambarus taylori)

ERIC TIDMORE and Zachary J. Loughman

The Cutshin Crayfish (Cambarus taylori) is a recently described species endemic to the Middle Fork of the Kentucky River basin that lies within the anthracite coal fields of Eastern Kentucky. As C. taylori has a restricted range in an area heavily impacted by extractive industry, a conservation assessment is warranted. The goal of this study was to predict suitable habitat locations for C. taylori through use of maximum entropy modeling (MaxEnt). The Middle Fork of the Kentucky River’s crayfish fauna was last surveyed during the summer of 2014. The occurrence data from this study coupled with landscape scale environmental variables—such as stream order and land use data—was used to create the model. The mean area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) value was 0.971, showing the model had high predictive accuracy. Stream order and stream sinuosity had the highest contribution to the model showing that C. taylori prefers 3rd and 4th order streams with low sinuosity. To test the accuracy of the model, ten high probability and ten low probability sites were surveyed. C. taylori was captured in ten of the twenty sites, eight of which were considered high probability for C. taylori presence.



Day: 2, Session: 3, Talk: 6

Crayfish Conservation in Southern England

JEN NIGHTINGALE, Grainne McCabe, Gareth Jones and Paul Stebbing

The white-clawed crayfish, Austropotamobius pallipes has suffered severe declines within the south west of England, where the first signal crayfish, Pascifastcus leniusculus farms were established in the 1970s. In response to this decline, The South West Crayfish Partnership (SWCP) was formed in 2008; comprising Bristol Zoological Society, Buglife, Cefas, the Environment Agency, Wildlife Trusts and Associates. The SWCP implements landscape scale, strategic conservation for A. pallipes, in an attempt to safeguard the future of this species in South West England. The conservation effort has four strands: 1. Ark sites: established throughout the south west England, for translocation of the most highly threatened white-clawed crayfish populations and captive-bred reintroductions. 2. Crayfish captive breeding facility: established at Bristol Zoo, which provides plague-free A. pallipes brood stock for ark site release, wild supplementations, research and outreach. 3. Communication strategy: running in tandem with the other three elements, targeting key audiences such as anglers, restaurants, students, school children and zoo visitors. 4. Invasive crayfish control – trialing different control techniques specifically targeting the signal crayfish. The presentation will cover the key elements of this conservation programme, evaluating its success to date and discuss the research elements that run in tandem with all of these conservation strands.



Day: 2, Session: 3, Talk: 7

Introduced and Then Almost Forgotten: Invasive Crayfish (Procambarus clarkii and Cherax quadricarinatus) in Costa Rica, Central America - Preliminary Results

JUAN CARLOS AZOFEIFA SOLANO, Ingo S. Wehrtmann, Fresia Villalobos-Rojas, Raquel Romero-Chaves and Adrián García-Rodríguez

Costa Rica harbors a remarkable diversity of freshwater native decapods, including 15 crab species (Pseudothelphusidae) and more than 21 species of caridean shrimps (Atyidae and Palaemonidae). Crayfish (Astacoidea) are not part of the native freshwater decapod fauna of the country. However, during the last century, two crayfish species were introduced: Procambarus clarkii in the Reventazón basin (Caribbean slope) in the 1970's, and Cherax quadricarinatus in the Tempisque basin (Pacific slope) in the 1980's. Both species have been recognized as invasive species in many other countries, and there is broad evidence suggesting its negative impact on native species, ecosystem functioning, and even human activities. Despite the potential threat of these crayfish species for the Costa Rican freshwater environments, very limited information is available about their occurrence in the country. Therefore, it is imperative to document the current distribution of both species and to assess their possible effects on the freshwater ecosystems in Costa Rica. We initiated a study aimed to explore the presence of these invasive crayfish species in Costa Rican streams and lakes and to provide information about their feeding ecology. So far, we have collected P. clarkii in two locations, outside the Reventazón basin were it was initially introduced, and belonging to the Pacific slope. More than 160 specimens have been analyzed, ranging in size from 6.5 to 78.1 mm total length. The predominant food item found at the stomachs was unidentified plant detritus, followed by filamentous plants, fragments of chironomid and Ephemeroptera larvae, and plastic. Our collections revealed two new locations for C. quadricarinatus in Costa Rica: one of them a stream in the Caribbean slope, and the other in the Arenal Lake, the largest reservoir in Costa Rica. The size of the collected specimens (n=7) ranged from 45.1 to 92.2 mm total length. Currently, both crayfish species inhabit both Caribbean and Pacific slopes in Costa Rica. It remains to be studied whether these species dispersed naturally or if they were locally introduced by humans. Since both species have been introduced in Costa Rica and the Central American region, the results of the study aim to raise awareness about the possible impacts of these crayfish species on the native flora and fauna of the local freshwater ecosystems, and to develop recommendations for the implementation of management programs.



Day: 2, Session: 4, Talk: 2

Invasive Rusty Crayfish (Orconectes rusticus) Populations in North America are Infected with the Crayfish Plague Disease Agent (Aphanomyces astaci)

LAURA MARTÍN-TORRIJOS, David Buckley, Ignacio Doadrio, Annie Machordom and Javier Diéguez-Uribeondo

European freshwater crayfish are currently included in the IUCN Red list as threatened. In the Iberian Peninsula, the native species (i.e., the white–clawed crayfish, Austropotamobius pallipes) has experienced a drastic decline since 1973. Currently, the implemented management strategies of these species require a better understanding of the patterns of genetic diversity. In this study, we assessed the levels and patterns of the genetic variation by analyzing the largest number of populations of the whole distributional range of the WCC in the Iberian Peninsula. The two ribosomal mitochondrial markers applied (Cytochrome Oxidase subunit I and rDNA 16S genes) indicated high levels of genetic variability, which are significantly geographically structured in three main genetic groups, i.e., two corresponding to Northern and one to Central-Eastern Iberian Peninsula). The diversity found includes new private haplotypes, and reveals WCC populations (i.e., Southern and Central European WCC populations), may be result of the ancient palaeogeographic events, such as geographic barriers, and the Last Maximum Glacial scenario (LMG) (i.e., isolation in glacial refugia). Current conservation and management programs for the WCC in the Iberian Peninsula should take into account these three phylogeographic areas as essential management units in order to preserve the maximum genetic diversity.



Day: 3, Session: 3, Talk: 5

Hunting Missouri’s Rarest Crayfish Using eDNA and Visual Surveys: A First Look at the Natural History of the Caney Mountain Cave Crayfish

ROBERT J. DiSTEFANO, David C. Ashley, Shannon K. Brewer and Joshua B. Mouser

Stygobitic (cave) crayfishes are regarded as the most imperiled crayfishes in the U.S. and Canada. The Caney Mountain Cave Crayfish (Faxonius stygocaneyi), discovered in 1998, is known from only a single population in Mud Cave in the Caney Mountain Conservation Area (CMCA) of southern Missouri. It is listed as “critically imperiled” by the state of Missouri and “threatened” by the American Fisheries Society. We conducted the first study of F. stygocaneyi to gather preliminary data on its natural history and population, and to locate possible additional populations. We visited Mud Cave on 14 occasions (at least once each season) between 2014 and 2018. Visual surveys along a transect of inundated (wet) and non-inundated (mud) habitat were conducted during most visits except late April-May 2017 when the cave was flooded. Supplemental baited trapping was also performed intermittently. Water samples (2 L at two Mud Cave locations) were taken on each of 7 visits in 2017 and 2018. Water and air temperatures were recoded for most of 2014-2016. We captured a total of 23 (carapace length, 15.0-47.0 mm, average: 27.2 mm) and observed an additional 42 F. stygocaneyi, including the first-ever records of juveniles (August 2016 and 2017) and an ovigerous female (August 2016). Multiple visual searches of the known five other caves and three springs at CMCA detected no F. stygocaneyi. In addition to water samples from Mud Cave, we also collected and filtered multiple water samples from Onyx, and Bear Hollow caves, and three springs thought to be in the same drainage in 2017-2018. We developed primers and probes to amplify F. stygocaneyi DNA from those samples. Study results were limited by use of non-invasive sampling methods, high turbidity, flooding on some occasions, and what appears to be a small population. Yet we observed four times more crayfish compared to the previous 17 years since the species’ discovery, and collected the first biological data. Visual and eDNA sampling of adjacent caves and springs suggest the species could be endemic to only Mud Cave.



Day: 3, Session: 3, Talk: 6

Body Size in Freshwater Crayfish: An Intercontinental Comparison

Alaistair M. M. Richardson

The independent evolution of the astacoidean and parastacoidean crayfish in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres provides an opportunity to compare their characteristics. The comparison can be sharpened by comparing the crayfish faunas of Australia and North America, having roughly similar areas and lying at comparable latitudes. Size data were collected from the literature for 230 North American and 125 Australian species, and were compared directly and in terms of the species' burrowing habits. The Australian fauna includes several much larger species, and while the modal body size is very similar in the two faunas, the North American modal size class, and also the entire fauna, is dominated by tertiary burrowers, the Australian by primary ones. Further, Australian primary burrowers are smaller on average. The factors influencing these differences are discussed.



Day: 3, Session: 4, Talk: 3

Epigenetic Regulation in the Marbled Crayfish

VITOR COUTINHO CARNEIRO, Anny Gatzmann, Cassandra Falckenhayn and Frank Lyko

The all-female marbled crayfish (Procambarus virginalis) attracted the attention of the scientific community due to its 'self-cloning' capacity. The obligatory parthenogenetic reproduction provided interesting research opportunities and also established a potent ecological threat. Despite its identical DNA, this model has an extraordinary variety in appearance and behaviour between isogenic batchmates reared in the same environment. This suggests that epigenetic mechanisms play a key role in marbled crayfish phenotypic variation. Our group has recently annotated the draft genome of the marbled crayfish, which revealed a conserved, functional and versatile DNA methylation system for epigenetic regulation. We have also used whole-genome bisulfite sequencing, RNA-seq and ATAC-seq for a comprehensive analysis of multiple individuals and tissues. Our results provide a novel concept for how methylation-dependent regulation of gene expression may facilitate the phenotypic adaptation and invasive spread of this animal.



Day: 5, Session: 2, Talk: 2

Biogeographic Differences in the Tradeoff Between Foraging and Predator Avoidance Across Native and Non-native Populations of Two Crayfish

LINDSEY REISINGER, Mael G. Glon and Lauren M. Pintor

There is growing evidence that the traits and impacts of species may diverge during the process of biological invasions; however, we still lack a general understanding of how the invasion process affects animal behavior. We used a biogeographic approach to compare foraging and antipredator behavior across a reciprocal invasion (an invasion in which each species was introduced to the native range of the other) of virile (Faxonius virilis) and rusty crayfish (F. rusticus). We hypothesized that the invasion process would select for bold, active individuals that allocate more time to foraging and less time to defense than their native counterparts. We used laboratory experiments to examine crayfish boldness, activity, and foraging voracity and mesocosm experiments to examine shelter use and predator avoidance behavior in response to a predatory fish. The intraspecific variation we observed was often greater in magnitude than interspecific variation, offering new evidence that ecologically important behaviors can vary substantially across the range of a species and may differ between native and non-native populations. Virile crayfish from native populations (Wisconsin, USA) were bolder, more active, and more voracious foragers than those from the species’ non-native range (Indiana, USA), and also displayed reduced antipredator behavior. Rusty crayfish from non-native populations (Wisconsin, USA) also displayed reduced antipredator behavior compared to their native counterparts (Indiana, USA). These results suggest that there is a tradeoff between foraging and predator avoidance in crayfish. Counter to our hypothesis, crayfish behavior did not consistently vary across species based on whether the population was native or non-native. Increased investment in foraging in Wisconsin could be an adaptation to the shorter growing season, and reduced boldness and activity in non-native virile crayfish could be an adaptation to avoid interactions with competitively superior rusty crayfish. Because foraging voracity and predator avoidance are ecologically important traits, the substantial divergence in behavior we observed across the geographic range of each species is likely to alter the ecological impacts of these crayfish on freshwater ecosystems.



Day: 5, Session: 2, Talk: 5

Invasive Rusty Crayfish (Orconectes rusticus) Populations in North America are Infected with the Crayfish Plague Disease Agent (Aphanomyces astaci)

JÖRN PANTELEIT, Thomas Horvath, Japo Jussila, Jenny Makkonen, William Perry, Ralf Schulz, Kathrin Theissinger and Anne Schrimpf

The American rusty crayfish, Orconectes rusticus, is an invasive species in various parts of North America, where it displaces resident crayfish species. While the influence of the crayfish plague disease agent, Aphanomyces astaci, has been studied extensively in Europe, the impact of A. astaci on the invasion success of crayfish within North America has so far received no attention. As a first approach to the question, whether A. astaci might play a role in the invasion success of O. rusticus within North America, we tested 84 O. rusticus samples for infection with A. astaci from 10 different locations in the Midwest, which are outside of the O. rusticus native distribution range. We used quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) to assess the infection prevalence and determined the mitochondrial haplotypes and multilocus microsatellite genotypes where this was possible. With qPCR, we detected A. astaci DNA in 4 out of 10 locations. The results were confirmed by isolation of A. astaci. Analyses of the pure culture isolates and the crayfish tissue samples by haplotyping and genotyping revealed a novel microsatellite genotype. Our results clearly identify O. rusticus as a vector of A. astaci in North America for the first time. The threat caused by these novel strains to endangered crayfish species in North America still remains unknown, but conservation efforts should consider A. astaci infections when developing and implementing invasive species management plans.



Day: 5, Session: 3, Talk: 1

Geographical Variation in Size and Growth in the Giant Freshwater Crayfish, Astacopsis gouldi. Deductions from a Large Opportunistic Database


A tagging program on the Tasmanian giant freshwater crayfish, Astacopsis gouldi, has been carried out since 1998, using PIT tags since 2007. Almost 600 animals, ranging from 20-215 mm carapace length, have been tagged and around 2500 captures recorded from 123 localities on 62 rivers across the species' range. Comparisons of length-weight relationships and growth are made between the discrete western and eastern ranges of the species, and between populations living in nutrient-poor and nutrient-rich waters. Animals from the eastern range are slightly lighter for a given weight than western animals. Growth is marginally slower in animals from nutrient-poor waters. Individual growth histories are available for 26 animals, some of which have been recaptured up to 6 times, over as long as 10 years. Growth rates vary considerably within river populations, suggesting that there may be fast- and slow-growing animals within the same population. Gompertz growth models showed lower growth rates and asymptotes for the nutrient-poor population, but their usefulness was affected by the limited size at known age data. Models suggested that animals of 220 mm CPL may be 60-70 years old.



Day: 5, Session: 3, Talk: 2

Population Characteristics of Red Swamp Crayfish Procambarus clarkii from Two Hydrologically Different Large River-floodplain Systems in Southeast Louisiana

ALEXA BALLINGER and Christopher Bonvillain

Anthropogenic modifications to large river-floodplain systems can sever natural water sources, alter annual flood pulses, and disrupt population dynamics of aquatic biota. The Atchafalaya River Basin (ARB) and the upper Barataria Estuary (UBE) in southeast Louisiana are separated by only 25 km and historically shared a similar hydrologic regime. Currently, the ARB receives an annual flood pulse from the Mississippi River that typically inundates floodplain habitats in the spring and dewaters in summer, providing access to floodplain spawning and foraging habitats and environmental cues for crayfish life cycle activities. In contrast, anthropogenic modifications to the UBE have eliminated an annual riverine flood pulse from the Mississippi River and large precipitation events are now the only drivers of floodplain inundation. The purpose of this project is to compare population characteristics of red swamp crayfish Procambarus clarkii between the ARB and UBE, two hydrologically different large river-floodplain ecosystems. P. clarkii were sampled every two weeks in the ARB and UBE during the 2017 and 2018 crayfish seasons. Sex, carapace length, and male reproductive form were recorded for all captured crayfish and catch per unit effort (CPUE) was determined as the number of crayfish per trap. Water quality was recorded at all sample sites on every sample date and hemolymph samples were collected from P. clarkii at all sample locations to determine hemolymph protein concentration. During the 2017 crayfish season, mean P. clarkii CPUE (3.81 ± 0.21) and carapace length (43.41 ± 0.71 mm) were higher in the ARB compared to the UBE (1.42 ± 0.34; 35.86 ± 0.49 mm). Additionally, ARB mean P. clarkii hemolymph protein concentration (5.1 ± 0.1 g/100 mL) was slightly higher than individuals from the UBE (4.8 ± 0.09 g/100 mL). These results indicate that the modification or absence of a flood pulse can have adverse effects on crayfish populations, threatening the ecological and economical importance of this species in river-floodplain ecosystems. The results from this research will provide a foundation for assessment of future anthropogenic modifications to river-floodplain hydrology and its effect on local aquatic biota.



Day: 5, Session: 3, Talk: 3

Observations of Chelae Injury in Two Crayfish Species in Three Sinuous Rills


Crayfish often lose or autotomize limbs (e.g., chelae) during agonistic conflicts. This defense mechanism increases the probability of surviving the encounter, however can result in long-term functional and energetic costs. For example, chela autotomy influences crayfish competitive ability, foraging time, capacity to obtain mates, and modifies crayfish distribution and behavior. Biotic factors (e.g., population density or predators), as well as abiotic factors (e.g., refugia or habitat complexity) can influence the frequency of injury. In this study, I investigated the prevalence of chela injury (loss or partially regenerated chelae) in two crayfish species (Cambarus striatus and Procambarus spiculifer) that were collected in three sinuous rills (Mountain Creek (MC), Liberty Bell Creek (LB), and Cascade Branch (CB)) in west central Georgia, USA over a four year period. My objectives were to determine if injury was similar among sites, among crayfish species, or varied with time of year. Additionally, within a species my objectives were to examine whether injury differed in crayfish size classes or sex. Cambarus striatus were collected in each of the three streams with the percent injured as follows: MC 15.5%, n = 579; LB 16.3%, n = 1555; and CB 21.3%, n = 1159. There were significantly more injuries from crayfish collected at CB than at the other two streams (p < 0.05). This was most likely driven by the greater percent of injuries in the juvenile size classes (6.0 mm to 15.9 mm carapace length (CL)): CB (24.5%) compared to the similar size classes at LB (16.6%) and MC (15.0%). The frequency of injury between males (18.2%), females (20.0%), or juveniles (19.0%) did not differ significantly nor were there significant differences between Form I (15.6%) and Form II (18.9) males (p > 0.05). Of the 590 C. striatus crayfish having an injury, approximately 13% of these crayfish had both chelae injured. Procambarus spiculifer were collected in each of the three streams (however only 3 individuals were collected at LB so data were not used for that site). The percent injured for P. spiculifer differed significantly between MC 12.1%, n = 727; and CB 23.7%, n = 169 (p < 0.05). There were a greater percent of injuries in the larger adult size classes (> 31.0 mm CL = 26.4%) compared to smaller size classes (< 31.0 mm CL = 9.9%). The frequency of injury among males (13.8%) and females (15.9%) did not differ significantly, however differed from the percent of injured juvenile crayfish (7.3%). Of the 126 P. spiculifer crayfish having an injury, approximately 12% of these crayfish had both chelae injured. The percent of injured crayfish captured varied widely from month to month for both species and no discernable pattern emerged through time. Given the level of injury in these populations, it is vital to understand how injury influences population dynamics of these two species with differing ecological needs and lifestyles.


Poster Presentations




Fishery-dependent Stock Assessment of Crayfish in the Eastern Atchafalaya River Basin

GABRIELLE A. SISSON and Christopher P. Bonvillain

Stock assessments are vital in fisheries management to monitor past and current status on population size and structure, and the potential responses of the fishery to future management decisions. However, there have not been extensive stock assessments for crayfish in the Atchafalaya River Basin (ARB), the largest wild crayfish fishery in Louisiana. Conducting crayfish stock assessments in the ARB have been difficult due lack of population data and reporting from harvesters, and the enormous spatial scale of the ARB. The purpose of this research is to obtain an extensive stock assessment for crayfish in the eastern ARB (east of the Atchafalaya River) by partnering with a local crayfish processor that purchases crayfish from harvesters throughout the eastern ARB. Harvest data collected from individual crayfish harvesters includes the total number of traps used, total weight of crayfish collected, and ARB spatial zone where crayfish were harvested (upper, middle, lower). Crayfish population characteristics (species, sex, carapace length, and male reproductive form) were examined weekly from three sub-samples of at least 400 individuals from different harvesters in each ARB zone (1,200 crayfish per week in each zone). Additionally, a minimum 100 female Procambarus clarkii were collected monthly from three different harvesters in each ARB zone (a total of 900 females per month, 300 from each zone) to determine the monthly percent ovigerous females. When eggs were present the gonad development was classified into five maturation stages based on egg color. The results from this research will provide novel, high-quality fisheries-dependent data for the stock assessment of the eastern ARB crayfish fishery.




An Assessment of Cambarus spicatus, Broad River Spiny Crayfish

RILEY W. AULICK and Zachary J. Loughman

The Broad River Spiny crayfish, Cambarus spicatus, is endemic to the Broad River and some of its tributaries. Few life history studies of C. spicatus have caused the IUCN to list it as data deficient. The goal of this study was to determine the impacts of land development on the distribution of C. spicatus. In the summer of the 2017, the West Liberty University Crayfish Conservation Research Lab surveyed the Catawba watershed in North Carolina and the Broad and Saluda watersheds in South Carolina in search of C. spicatus. A standard protocol of ten seine hauls per riffle was implemented in one hundred and twenty-three streams. Dip nets were used in addition to seines to survey the banks of the streams. ArcMap, an application of ArcGIS, was utilized by adding layers such as land cover and a buffer around each collection area which provided land type percentages for each survey site. Six individuals from four sites in North Carolina and one individual from South Carolina were collected out of a total of one-hundred and twenty-three sites. According to the models, C. spicatus was least likely to be found in areas developed for agriculture and urban development. This study provides strong evidence that land development is negatively impacting C. spicatus distribution. Additional studies are needed throughout the species range to make a final determination that land development has a negative impact on C. spicatus.




Survey Says: U.S. State- and Canadian Provincial-Level Natural Resource Agencies Focus on Crayfish Conservation

Cheyenne E. Stratton and ROBERT J. DISTEFANO

Taylor et al. (1996) issued a "warning shot" about a crayfish imperilment plight, and "neglect" of the fauna by natural resources agencies. In the ensuing decades some highly imperiled aquatic faunal groups, such as unionid mussels and crayfish, have received moderately increased attention by U.S. and Canadian natural resources agencies. Such attention appears to have translated to increased funding for work on crayfish, possibly due to concern for individual species' imperilment, or resource problems caused by them (e.g., invasive crayfishes). We wondered 1) how perceived increased agency attention to crayfish might be reflected in numbers and types of staff assigned to work on crayfish conservation and management?, 2) where (topically) these staff are directing their efforts?, and 3) what are agencies' major constraints/impediments to and needs for crayfish conservation and management? We conducted a two-part telephone survey in 2017 and 2018 to learn about natural resources agencies' level of involvement and direction in crayfish conservation and management. In Part I (2017) we called natural resource agencies in all 50 U.S. states and 13 Canadian provinces/territories (63 "jurisdictions") to determine the number who employed or contracted staff to work on crayfish, where these jurisdictions were located (regionally), and in what topical/subject areas they were working. In Part II (2018) we made follow-up calls to only jurisdictions that had reported doing crayfish work in Part I of the survey. We asked them about their agencies' prioritization of crayfish, impediments to crayfish work, and information they believed most useful to help them conserve/manage crayfish (data needs). Part I results indicated nearly half of jurisdictions are conducting crayfish work, mostly in the Southeastern U.S., and concentrating on determining species' distributions and conservation status, or on threats (i.e., invasive species). Part II suggested that more than half of agencies working on crayfish consider them a priority faunal group, with the largest impediment being insufficient funding. Jurisdictions' most commonly cited information needs were species compositions (native and introduced), distributions, conservation status assessments, ecology, and threats. Our survey results suggest an encouraging but limited increase in U.S. state and Canadian provincial/territorial natural resources agencies working on crayfish since Taylor et al.'s (1996) challenge.




Identification of Pathogens Causing Porcelain Disease in North America: Call for Samples


Porcelain disease refers to the appearance of certain symptoms in crayfish, primarily a white opacity of the musculature. The disease is usually slow-progressing but believed to be fatal in all cases. In crayfish it is typically caused by microsporidians of the Thelohania genus. However, the symptoms may also be caused by members of other genera. Species identifications are currently made by morphology and more importantly through genetic techniques. Porcelain disease is well documented in European and Australian crayfish populations, but has not been well-studied in North America where anecdotal evidence suggests it occurs at a low rate in wild crayfish populations. I hope to acquire samples of infected crayfish from field researchers in North America to identify the species of microsporidians causing the disease on this continent. I am looking for assistance with this project from any researchers in North America who encounter visibly-infected crayfish and are willing to provide a tissue sample for investigation. Sampling kits will be made available for any willing participants.




Are Soil Properties Good Predictors in Distribution Modelling for Three European Crayfish?

CONSTAN?A MIHAELA ION, Andrei Dornik and Lucian Pârvulescu

Niche-based species distribution models (SDMs) using different algorithms (like generalized linear model, MaxEnt, random forest) are largely used in various applications for many species of plants and animals. By far, the most used variables for modelling are bioclimatic variables, but also slope, land use, vegetation cover and soil are sometimes considered. Several soil properties are now available at regional and global level, with suitable spatial resolution for SDMs. We therefore aim to increase our understanding on how these soil properties affect spatial distribution of crayfish species. We used a database consisting of 470 presence and absence locations in Romania for three European species of crayfish (Austropotamobius torrentium, Astacus leptodactylus and A. astacus), to extract information from several soil properties layers (grid type at 250 m resolution at seven standard depths) obtained from ISRIC - World Soil Information. Analyzing soil texture, 3000 randomly selected points from the study area were grouped mainly into five soil textural classes (silty clay, clay loam, silty clay loam, loam and silt loam), while crayfish presence points fell only in loam and clay loam. Using SDM we found that soil properties are good predictors for the current distributions of the three investigated crayfish species. For A. leptodactylus, the predicted distribution covers low plains up to the hills, while for A. astacus it ranges from higher plains, over foothills and tablelands and into lower altitude units of the Carpathian Mountains. A. torrentium predicted distribution is clearly restricted to the foothill region. The analysis based on crayfish abundance pointed out that there is a positive response to clay content and soil bulk density, and a negative response to sand content as well as to coarse fragments for all investigated crayfish species. We speculate that the burrows integrity against the erosion along the shorelines might be the explanation of these results, challenging new perspectives in further ecological approaches.




Habitat Associations of Endemic Crayfishes in the Meramec River Drainage: The Freckled Crayfish (Cambarus maculatus) and Belted Crayfish (Faxonius harrisonii).

Joe Chilton, Amanda E. Rosenberger and ROBERT J. DiSTEFANO

Understanding the habitat associations of rare species is important to make informed management and policy decisions. The Freckled Crayfish (Cambarus maculatus) and Belted Crayfish (Faxonius harrisonii) are two of Missouri’s rare and endemic crayfish species. Both species are listed as vulnerable on Missouri’s list of species and communities of conservation concern due to their limited range. Their native range is limited to the Meramec River drainage in eastern Missouri. We sampled 60 sites throughout the two species’ known range for presence and habitat variables. Replication was performed spatially within sites using kick-seines, drag seines, and visual timed-searches. Local- and landscape-scale habitat variables were evaluated for possible associations with the crayfishes through occupancy modeling with the R package “unmarked”. We found boulders and Strahler stream order were positive estimators of occupancy, while percent agriculture was negatively associated with the Freckled Crayfish. Belted Crayfish were associated with larger substrate size, increased embeddedness of substrate, and aquatic vegetation. This information will guide conservation managers in future projects and policy decisions regarding these two species.




Influence of Climate Warming on the Ecological Impacts of Invasive Crayfishes

VICTORIA CHICATUN and Anthony Ricciardi

Aquatic systems in temperate regions are particularly sensitive to temperature change, which can cause seasonal stress for cold-water adapted species and hospitable conditions for warm-water invaders. Altered thermal regimes may mediate the ecological impacts of non-native species by affecting their abundance and per capita effects, causing shifts in predator-prey dynamics and competitive dominance over native species. High-impact invaders tend to exhibit higher functional responses (maximum feeding rates) than functionally-similar native taxa. It has also been shown that individuals' maximum feeding rates are inversely proportional to the deviation from their environmental optima and could potentially be used a performance metric for invasive species across a thermal gradient. My research investigates the effects of water temperature and population latitude on prey consumption and competitive dominance by invasive (Faxonius rusticus) and native (F. virilis) crayfishes in the Great Lakes basin. For this, I have planned a series of lab experiments comparing functional responses and outcomes of competitive interactions across temperatures (based on projected warming scenarios for the lower Great Lakes) to test the prediction that native species will exhibit lower maximum feeding rates than invaders and that increasing temperatures will result in competitive dominance of southern species over northern species.




Analysis of Species-environmental Relationships with Variance Partitioning and Distance-based Moran Eigenvector Maps: Application for Crayfish Distribution and Community Models

WILLIAM R. BUDNICK, Sophia I. Passy and Michael D. Kaller

Advances in numerical ecology have developed robust modeling techniques that can include spatial information in analyses of species-environmental relationships. We demonstrate how variance partitioning and distance-based Moran eigenvector maps (dbMEM) can determine which spatial scales that environmental factors structure crayfish communities and distributions. We sampled 56 streams from 5 major Louisiana river drainages from 2013-2014. Variance partitioning with redundancy analyses of environmental factors and geographic spatial distances produced a poor model fit and great environmental-spatial covariance, which confounded interpretation. However, including orthogonal spatial variables obtained from dbMEM not only improved model fits, but elucidated which environmental variables constrained community composition across spatial scales, namely among drainages (broad scale), within drainages (intermediate scale) and within stream (small scale). Presence of sand, specific conductance, and stream depth were important community drivers across scales, but presence of clay and grassy banks were more locally important. Temperature, a climatic factor, was important at broad scales. Our methods provided valuable insight into the relevant scales of environmental influence on crayfish and it is our hope that we see wider adoption of these methods for future work.




A Night of Devastation: Natural and Life History Observations of an En-masse Single Night Collection of Fallicambarus devastator

ZACHARY W. DILLARD, Katie Scott, Nicole M. Sadecky, Luke K. Sadecky and Zachary J. Loughman

Due to their fossorial tendencies, primary burrowing crayfish are the most difficult behavioral group of crayfish to study in-situ. In this study we elucidated both natural and life history aspects and intraspecific behaviors from a collection of 111 individual Fallicambarus devastator collected in Angelina County, Texas, on the night of May 15th, 2015. We also intend to emphasize the importance of environmental cues on collection success. Significant amounts of precipitation occurred during the days prior to collection efforts, resulting in the majority of burrows to be flooded on the day of collection. All animals were collected either traversing the landscape or captured at the portal of their burrow. Behaviors observed included excavation, respiration, feeding, and interspecific interactions. The majority of animals observed were adults, with juveniles noticeably absent on the surface. Life history observations included evidence of synchronous alteration to reproductive form in males, as well as sexually-dependent chelae morphometric ratios. Fallicambarus devastator meristically displayed sexual dimorphism between form I male and female chelae, with form I chelae having longer propodus length and greater palm widths compared to the squamous and shorter chelae of females. Understanding the significance of studying these animals in favorable conditions is of paramount importance to the quality of future primary burrowing crayfish research.




Morphometric and Genetic Evidence of Population Heterogeneity in the Narrow-clawed Crayfish from Belarus

KAROLINA ŚLIWIŃSKA, Agata Mruga?a, Molotkov V. Dimitry, Radek Šanda and Anatoly V. Alekhnovich

The narrow-clawed crayfish, Astacus leptodactylus (Eschscholtz, 1823) is one of the two native European crayfish species in Belarus. Although it is a widespread species of high economic importance in this country, the recent expansion of the invasive alien crayfish species endanger the sustainability of its stocks within Belarus. Nevertheless, A. leptodactylus taxonomical status is under debate across its whole range, and it is currently considered as a species complex. Indeed, the occurrence of various morphological forms within its native range has been extensively described in early scientific literature. Moreover, based on molecular data, A. leptodactylus populations have been recently divided into European and Asian lineages; a division confirmed also by comparative morphological analyses of genetically distinct Armenian and Croatian populations. Yet detailed information on the diversity of narrow-clawed crayfish remains still scarce, especially in its native distribution range. Therefore, our study aimed to evaluate the diversity of A. leptodactylus within two different drainages (Baltic and Black Sea) in Belarus, based on morphological (multivariate statistics) and genetic (mtDNA COI gene) analyses. As a result of molecular analyses, the studied populations were clustered into two distinct phylogroups, corresponding to the previously published A. leptodactylus lineages. Furthermore, the multivariate morphometric analyses confirmed this clustering, and indicated that variability of studied populations is especially expressed in abdomen and cephalothorax parameters. The obtained results suggest that A. leptodactylus may have a double origin within the territory of Belarus, and therefore, provide important information for the conservation and management of this native crayfish species.

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