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2010 SOUTHEASTERN NATURALIST 9(3):521–528
Crayfish Fauna of the Tennessee River Drainage in
Mississippi, Including New State Species Records
Susan B. Adams1,*, Christopher A. Taylor2, and Chris Lukhaup3
Abstract - We present new state records for 3 crayfish species in the Tennessee River
basin in Mississippi, and the first drainage-specific distributional information in the
state for a fourth. The species—Cambarus girardianus, Cambarus rusticiformis,
Orconectes spinosus, and Orconectes wright,—are all known from the Tennessee
River basin in Tennessee, while all but O. wrighti are also known from Alabama.
We also expand the distribution of Procambarus viaeviridis in the state to include
the Tennessee River drainage in Alcorn and Tishomingo counties, MS. We briefly
discuss taxonomic issues involving C. girardianus and O. spinosus. Based on their
distributions in neighboring states, we suspect that several other species may occur
in the Mississippi portion of the basin.
Available distributional records for crayfishes in Mississippi reflect
patchy and sporadic collecting since about 1900. Because of a lack of thorough,
systematic sampling, distributions of many species in the state are
poorly defined. The Mississippi Crayfish Database v.3.1 (http://maps.fs.fed.
us/crayfish/ [database records accessible after login]; Adams and Henderson
2009) includes collection records from the Smithsonian National Museum
of Natural History (USNM), the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science,
the Illinois Natural History Survey, and the US Forest Service Southern Research
Station’s Center for Bottomland Hardwoods Research. The database
indicates that some collecting was conducted in the small portion of the
Tennessee River basin that extends into northeast Mississippi, but most of
the museum records do not indicate methods or collection effort, making it
difficult to judge the thoroughness of the sampling.
The Tennessee River basin includes the only portion of Mississippi (1089
km2; Fig. 1) that was probably not periodically inundated by shallow seas
during the Cenozoic (Ross 2001) and contains a fish fauna distinct from that
in the remainder of the state. The Tennessee River basin is one of the few
areas of the state to contain streams with relatively clear water and rocky
substrates. Within the state, 22 fish species are native to just the Tennessee
River basin (Ross 2001). Although the Tennessee and Tombigbee rivers
have been hydrologically connected by the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway
1USDA Forest Service, Southern Research Station, Center for Bottomland Hardwoods
Research, 1000 Front Street Oxford, MS 38655. 2Institute for Natural Resource
Sustainability, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Illinois Natural
History Survey, 1816 South Oak, Champaign, IL 61820. 3Crusta 10, Gotenstrasse 16,
71336 Bittenfeld, Germany. *Corresponding author - email@example.com.
522 Southeastern Naturalist Vol. 9, No. 3
since the early 1980s, the basins retain distinct fish faunas (Ross 2001). This
difference is due in part, perhaps, to migration barriers and different habitat
characteristics between the 2 basins. Over time, however, the blending of
faunas between the basins may increase.
In light of the distinct fish fauna and habitats in the Tennessee River basin,
we expected that, within the state, a number of crayfish species should
also be restricted to the basin, especially those that are intimately associated
with cobble or boulder habitat in lotic systems. Currently, the only crayfish
with a published Mississippi distribution restricted to the Tennessee River
basin is Orconectes compressus (Hobbs 1989). Procambarus ablusus and perhaps
Orconectes etnieri are restricted to several drainages flowing north into
Tennessee, including, but not limited to the Tennessee River drainage. Taxonomic
uncertainties make the exact distribution limits of O. etnieri unclear.
We recently focused crayfish sampling efforts on undersampled areas of
Mississippi in an effort to improve knowledge of crayfish distributions and
provide a better basis for conservation planning. Here we report on recent
collections from the Tennessee River drainage in Mississippi.
In 1996 and 2007–2009, we collected crayfishes from 10 locations in the
Tennessee River basin. We visited two locations twice and the remainder
once. Our sampling focused on stream habitats, with the exception of one
roadside ditch. We collected by seining, dipnetting, turning rocks by hand,
and searching visually. Some burrows were excavated, but collecting efforts
were concentrated in streams.
We collected and retained 150 specimens of 12 species (Table 1), including
specimens representing new state or river basin distribution records at 6
of the sites during 8 site-visits (Table 2, Fig. 1) . We also include data from
several unpublished USNM collections. We found 3 crayfish species not
previously reported from the state: Cambarus girardianus, Cambarus rusticiformis,
and Orconectes spinosus. In addition, Taylor et al. (2007) listed
Orconectes wrighti as occurring in Mississippi, but no further distribution
information has been published on the species in the state. We examined
form I (reproductive form) males of all of the above species except C. rusticiformis.
Finally, we expand the published distribution of Procambarus
viaeviridis within the state to include 2 sites in the Tennessee River basin.
We collected the species in Alcorn County (site 8135; Table 2), and we report
a USNM collection from Tishomingo County (USNM # 144124; collected
by Boschung 3/11/1972, identified by H.H. Hobbs, Jr. in 1972; locality T.2S.
R.9E, Sec. 26, Tishomingo County, MS).
Cambarus girardianus was collected during 1 site visit to Bear Creek.
We found it under large rocks in the middle of the creek during a drought
2010 S.B. Adams, C.A. Taylor, and C. Lukhaup 523
Figure 1. Collection
sites with new
state or drainage
Table 1. Crayfish species known from the Tennessee River basin in Mississippi (MS Crayfish
Database; Adams and Henderson 2009). Species in bold are new state records and those with
asterisks have new distributional information.
Species Subgenus Authority Common name
Cambarus diogenes Lacunicambarus Girard Devil Crawfish
C. girardianus Hiaticambarus Faxon Tanback Crayfish
C. ludovicianus Lacunicambarus Faxon Painted Devil Crayfish
C. rusticiformis Erebicambarus Rhoades Depression Crayfish
C. striatus Depressicambarus Hay Ambiguous Crayfish
Orconectes compressus Gremicambarus (Faxon) Slender Crayfish
O. etnieri Trisellescens Bouchard & Bouchard Ets Crayfish
Orconectes sp.A Trisellescens
O. spinosus Procericambarus Bundy Coosa River Spiny Crayfish
O. wrighti* Faxonius Hobbs Hardin Crayfish
Procambarus ablusus Pennides Penn Hatchie River Crayfish
P. acutus Ortmannicus (Girard) White River Crawfish
P. viaeviridis* Ortmannicus (Faxon) Vernal Crayfish
524 Southeastern Naturalist Vol. 9, No. 3
Table 2. Location details for sites with new state or county species records in the Tennessee River drainage of Mississippi, including site number from the Mississippi
Crayfish Database (Adams and Henderson 2009), site name and locality description, north latitude and west longitude in decimal degrees, county, and
US Geological Survey 8-digit hydrologic unit code (HUC) and name. Site numbers coincide with those given for individual collections in Table 3. Coordinates
were obtained with a GPS receiver in the field for recent collections and by locating sites on electronic maps (e.g., DeLorme Topo USA 6.0 and 7.0) for older
Site # Site name Locality description Latitude Longitude County 8-digit HUC 8-digit HUC name
6788 Robinson Creek 2 miles S of Crossroads (junction of highways 365 and 25), 34.8997 -88.2611 Tishomingo 06030005 Pickwick Lake
1 mile west of State Route 25.A
8113 Robinson Creek At Tenn-Tom Waterway; between closed bridge and 34.9113 -88.2588 Tishomingo 06030005 Pickwick Lake
control structure at mouth of creek.
8111 Bear Creek At MS Highway 30 crossing. 34.6343 -88.1544 Tishomingo 06030006 Bear
8219 Bear Creek At Bear Creek Mound along Natchez Trace Parkway. 34.6445 -88.1327 Tishomingo 06030006 Bear
Sampled just upstream of island.
8133 Chambers Creek At MS Highway 350 crossing. Also sampled roadside ditch. 34.9888 -88.4347 Alcorn 06040001 Lower TN-Beech
4085 Chambers Creek 5 miles WNW Kendrick, MS. Highway 350, just S of 34.9928 -88.4288 Alcorn 06040001 Lower TN-Beech
tributary state line.
8135 Sevenmile Creek At MS Highway 350 crossing. 34.9602 -88.3818 Alcorn 06040001 Lower TN-Beech
AAdded “1 mile west of State Route 25” to one USNM record and “(junction highways 365 and 25)” to another for consistency in locality descriptions.
2010 S.B. Adams, C.A. Taylor, and C. Lukhaup 525
period in June 2007. During subsequent sampling visits, even in summer, the
water was too high to effectively sample those habitats. The color pattern of
the Bear Creek C. girardianus specimens differed from that of some other
populations in that the former were a rather uniform tan color and lacked
dark contrasting saddles. Although no form I males were collected, one male
was kept alive until it molted to form I.
Cambarus rusticiformis was collected twice in 1 location and once in a
second location in Bear Creek. It too was found under rocks or debris in fast
water mid-stream, but was also found closer to the stream edges than was
C. girardianus. All individuals appeared nearly black at first glance, but
upon closer inspection had dark, irregular blotches widely scattered on a
We collected Orconectes spinosus at 1 site in Robinson Creek within
sight of its confluence with the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. We sampled
neither the mainstem of the Waterway nor many other locations in the
immediate vicinity, so the species may be slightly more widespread in MS;
however, sampling in Bear Creek has not produced the species. Museum
records for the taxon also indicate it was collected twice in a nearby site in
Robinson Creek in the 1970s (Table 3, Fig. 1). We collected 1 individual
with unusual coloration. Of the two adult females collected, one was colored
normally, but the other was a pink color morph not previously reported; the
two were similar in other respects (for photographs, see Adams and Henderson
2009 , http://maps.fs.fed.us/crayfish/).
Orconectes wrighti was found only in the Chambers Creek drainage. While
the sites we visited contained little naturally occurring rocky substrate, most
specimens were collected in the rock rip-rap placed around bridges.
As with fishes, the Tennessee River basin in Mississippi contains a
unique crayfish assemblage compared to other areas of the state. While most
of the unique species are widespread beyond Mississippi, others, such as
O. wrighti, have a narrow total distribution. In terms of conservation at the
state level, all four new species should receive attention due to their limited
distributions within the state and to the unique habitats in the drainage.
Two of the species are known in the state only from Bear Creek, the largest
Tennessee River tributary in the state. Bear Creek originates in Alabama
and flows in a roughly 30-km bend through Mississippi before it re-enters
Alabama and joins the Tennessee River in the Pickwick Lake impoundment.
The lower 20+ km of the creek is impounded when Pickwick Lake is at full
pool. Populations of C. girardianus and C. rusticiformis in Bear Creek may
have been reduced by the impoundment of the lower section of the river
when Pickwick Lake was created. Also, the impacts to populations from the
channelization of an upstream segment of Bear Creek are unknown.
Some confusion surrounds the taxonomy of O. spinosus and the very
similar O. putnami (Faxon) (Phallic Crayfish). Taylor (2000) indicated that
526 Southeastern Naturalist Vol. 9, No. 3
Table 3. Collections representing new crayfish species records for Mississippi, as well as Orconectes wrighti collections. The record number is from the Mississippi
Crayfish Database, but the combination of the data source and original catalog or collection number (original #) can be used to locate a record in its original
database. Date collected, number of crayfish of each form (M1 = form 1 male, M2 = form 2 male, JM = juvenile male, F = female, JF = juvenile female) in the
collection, the collectors, and the person who identified the specimens are given. The site numbers correspond with the numbers in Table 2.
Record Date Data Original
# Species collected M1 M2 JM F JF sourceA # Collectors Identified by Site #
893 C. girardianus 6/24/2007 0 3 0 2 0 USFS SA204 S.B. Adams, C. Lukhaup, C.A. Quinn S.B. Adams 8111
899 C. rusticiformis 6/24/2007 0 0 0 1 0 USFS SA204 S.B. Adams, C. Lukhaup, C.A. Quinn C.A. Taylor 8111
4891 C. rusticiformis 5/20/2009 0 1 0 0 0 USFS SA319 S.B. Adams, J.G. McWhirter, A.M. Commens-Carson, S.B. Adams 8111
4892 C. rusticiformis 5/20/2009 0 0 0 1 0 USFS SA320 S.B. Adams, J.G. McWhirter, A.M. Commens-Carson, C.A. Taylor 8219
1971 O. spinosus 10/18/1974 1 0 0 0 0 USNM 148759 G. Clemmer H.H. Hobbs, Jr. 6788
1880 O. spinosusB 10/10/1975 0 0 1 0 0 USNM 178261 G. Clemmer S.B. Adams 6788
987 O. spinosus 6/24/2007 1 1 0 1 0 USFS SA206 S.B. Adams, C. Lukhaup, C.A. Quinn C. Lukhaup 8113
805 O. wrighti 3/29/1996 0 0 0 1 0 INHS 5428 C.A. Taylor, M.H. Sabaj C.A. Taylor 4085
4605 O. wrighti 3/21/2008 4 1 0 3 2 USFS SA230 S.B. Adams, J.G. McWhirter, M.R. Bland S.B. Adams 8133
4810 O. wrighti 4/30/2009 3 1 2 3 0 USFS SA316 S.B. Adams, J.G. McWhirter, A.M. Commens-Carson S.B. Adams 8133
4613 O. wrighti 3/21/2008 1 0 0 0 0 USFS SA233 S.B. Adams, J.G. McWhirter, M.R. Bland S.B. Adams 8135 .
AUSFS = US Forest Service crayfish collection, Center for Bottomland Hardwoods Research, Oxford, MS; USNM = United States National Museum of Natural
History, Washington DC; INHS = Illinois Natural History Survey, Champaign, IL.
BIn the USNM database, this crayfish was listed as O. putnami, identified by J.F. Fitzpatrick, Jr. in 1982. S.B. Adams changed the identification to O. spinosus
based on current understanding of the taxonomy and distribution of the group, but did not examine the specimen.
2010 S.B. Adams, C.A. Taylor, and C. Lukhaup 527
the populations belonging to the Orconectes subgenus Procericambarus
in the Tennessee River tributaries in northwest Alabama and southern Tennessee
were O. putnami. Further investigation indicates that they should be
considered O. spinosus (C.A. Taylor and G. Schuster, Eastern Kentucky University,
Richmond, KY, unpubl. data), although they may ultimately prove to
be a distinct species. The USNM database included two records for the taxon
in Mississippi. Both collections were made at the same site (one each in 1974
and 1975). One was identified by J.F. Fitzpatrick, Jr., as O. putnami and the
other by H.H. Hobbs, Jr., as O. spinosus. Despite those records, Mississippi
was not included in published descriptions of either species’ range, nor was
either included in published species lists for the state. Fitzpatrick (2002)
included O. (Procericambarus) sp., ref.: spinosus in his list of crayfishes of
Mississippi, but included five counties in the range. Because the only known
museum collections of specimens belonging to the subgenus Procericambarus
in Mississippi are from Robinson Creek, a distribution of the taxon
encompassing five counties in the state is questionable.
Our collections of C. rusticiformis from Bear Creek, MS, may provide
insight into the disjunct populations of the species in the Paint Rock River
drainage of Northern Alabama. Cambarus rusticiformis occurs from the
main-stem of the Ohio River in southern Illinois south across central Kentucky
and Tennessee in the upper Green and Cumberland River drainages
(Taylor and Schuster 2004). Within the Tennessee River drainage, the species
apparently has a very disjunct distribution, known only from the upper
Duck River drainage of central Tennessee and the Paint Rock River drainage
of northern Alabama. The disjunct nature of the Paint Rock River locations
led Bouchard (1976) to speculate that the species was introduced there.
Our discovery of the species from an area of the Tennessee River drainage
somewhat between the Duck-Tennessee River convergence and the Paint
Rock-Tennessee River convergence suggests that C. rusticiformis may be
native to the Paint Rock River drainage and may occur in a much larger portion
of the Tennessee drainage than previously known. Recent identification
of C. rusticiformis in four collections from the mainstem and side channels
of the Tennessee River near Florence, AL, further supports this idea (G.A.
Schuster, unpubl. data; collections made by Jeff Garner in Lauderdale and
Colbert counties, AL, in 2001 and 2009). Crayfish sampling in large rivers in
the region has been limited. Future sampling in the mainstems of the Tennessee
River and its large tributaries will likely reveal additional populations of
C. rusticiformis and other crayfishes characteristic of large river habitats.
The impoundment of the Tennessee River in a chain of large reservoirs
may have isolated populations of C. rusticiformis, fragmenting a much more
contiguous historic distribution. Because C. rusticiformis, as well as C. girardianus
and O. spinosus, occur in fast-flowing, rocky habitats of medium
to large rivers, it is likely that the shoals of the Tennessee River provided
suitable habitat for these species prior to impoundment. Unfortunately, historic
data for crayfish distributions in the Tennessee River are too sparse to
shed light on the issue.
528 Southeastern Naturalist Vol. 9, No. 3
Based on distributional patterns of the species known from the Mississippi
portion of the Tennessee River drainage, we consider it plausible that
more sampling could lead to several more new state records. Several other
species in the subgenus Procericambarus occur in Tennessee River tributaries
in northwest Alabama or in Tennessee just north of the Mississippi state line
and may be encountered during future sampling in Mississippi. These include
Orconectes durelli Bouchard and Bouchard (Saddle Crayfish), O. forceps
(Faxon) (Surgeon Crayfish), and O. mirus (Ortmann) (Wonderful Crayfish).
We thank B. Jones (MS Museum of Natural Science) and K. Reed (USNM) who
provided museum data for the Mississippi Crayfish Database, as well as all of the
people listed as collectors in Table 1. Thanks to A. Commens-Carson for preparing
Figure 1. G. Schuster and B. Jones made insightful suggestions on an earlier draft of
the manuscript, and G. Schuster provided valuable information on crayfish collections
from Alabama. The research was supported by the US Forest Service Center for
Bottomland Hardwoods Research and the Illinois Natural History Survey.
Adams, S.B., and G. Henderson. 2009. Mississippi Crayfishes Database v. 3.1.
USDA Forest Service, Oxford, MS. Available online at http://maps.fs.fed.us/
crayfish/. Accessed 1 July 2009.
Bouchard, R.W. 1976. Geography and ecology of crayfishes of the Cumberland
Plateau and Cumberland Mountains, Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia,
and Alabama, Part II: The genera Fallicambarus and Cambarus. Pp. 585–605, In
J.W. Avault, Jr. (Ed.). Freshwater Crayfish. Louisiana State University Division
of Continuing Education, Baton Rouge, LA. 676 pp.
Fitzpatrick, J.F., Jr. 2002. The conservation status of Mississippi crawfishes (Crustacea:
Decapoda: Cambaridae). Louisiana Academy of Sciences 63:25–36.
Hobbs, H.H., Jr. 1989. An illustrated checklist of the American crayfishes (Decapoda:
Astacidae, Cambaridae, and Parastacidae). Smithsonian Contributions to
Ross, S.T. 2001. The Inland Fishes of Mississippi. University Press of Mississippi,
Jackson, MS. 624 pp.
Taylor, C.A. 2000. Systematic studies of the Orconectes juvenilis complex (Decapoda:
Cambaridae), with descriptions of two new species. Journal of Crustacean
Taylor, C.A., and G.A. Schuster. 2004. The Crayfishes of Kentucky. Illinois Natural
History Survey Special Publication No. 28. Champaign, IL. viii + 219 pp.
Taylor, C.A., G.A. Schuster, J.E. Cooper, R.J. DiStefano, A.G. Eversole, P. Hamr,
H.H. Hobbs, III, H.W. Robison, C.E. Skelton, and R.F. Thoma. 2007. A reassessment
of the conservation status of crayfishes of the United States and Canada
after 10+ years of increased awareness. Fisheries 32:372–389.