virile crayfish

(Orconectes virilis)

Conservation Status
virile crayfish
Photo by Kirk Nelson
  IUCN Red List

LC - Least Concern

     
  NatureServe

N5 - Secure

SNR - Unranked

     
  Minnesota

not listed

     
           
           
           
 
Description
 
 

Virile crayfish is a medium- to large-sized freshwater crustacean. It is widespread and abundant across North America. It is native to central United States and Canada from Quebec to Tennessee in the east to Alberta and Colorado in the west. It is introduced and considered invasive outside of its native range from coast to coast.

Adults are 1¾ to 5 long and smooth. Males are usually larger than females. Occasionally, an individual will be entirely bluish.

The abdomen and the shield (carapace) covering the front part of the body (cephalothorax) are olive-brown dappled with dark brown. The long spike-like extension of the carapace that projects forward between the eyes (rostrum) has straight, more or less parallel sides. There is a pair of dark brown splotches on the upper (dorsal) side of abdominal segments 1 through 5.

The claws (chelae) are broadly flattened and usually bluish with numerous yellow bumps (tubercles). They do not have black bands at the tip. The movable finger (dactylus) on the claw has a straight margin. The legs are usually bluish with yellow tubercles.

 
     
 

Size

 
 

Total Length: 1¾ to 5

 
     
 

Similar Species

 
     
     
 
Habitat
 
 

A variety of lakes, streams, and wetlands

 
     
 
Biology
 
 

Season

 
 

Most active May to September

 
     
 

Behavior

 
 

They prefer streams with rocky bottoms, moderate flow and turbidity, abundant cover, and stable water levels. They often use rocks, logs, or other organic debris as cover. They occasionally dig burrows into muddy banks, especially when water levels are low.

To survive the winter, they migrate to deeper water that does not completely freeze and they become inactive.

 
     
 

Lifespan

 
 

3 to 4 years

 
     
 

Life Cycle

 
 

Breeding takes place in the fall or early spring. The female stores the sperm, sometimes for months, and fertilizes the eggs in the spring. The fertilized eggs are attached is raspberry-like bunches to the abdominal appendages (swimmerets). They hatch in one to two months. They moult several times and reach maturity in their second year.

 
     
 

Juvenile Food

 
 

 

 
     
 

Adult Food

 
 

Mostly dead animals, but also living snails, insects, fish, tadpoles, and plant material.

 
     
 
Distribution
 
 

Distribution Map

 

Sources

24, 29, 30.

 
  7/3/2018      
         
 

Occurrence

 
 

Widespread and abundant

 
         
 
Taxonomy
 
  Class Malacostraca (malacostracans)  
  Superorder Eucarida (Eucarida (Crabs, Crayfish, Shrimp, etc.))  
 

Order

Decapoda (Crabs, Crayfishes, Lobsters, Prawns, and Shrimp)  
 

Suborder

Pleocyemata  
 

Infraorder

Astacidea (true lobsters and crayfishes)  
 

Superfamily

Astacoidea (crayfish)  
 

Family

Cambaridae  
 

Subfamily

Cambarinae  
 

Genus

Orconectes  
  Subgenus Gremicambarus  
       
 

Synonyms

 
 

 

 
       
 

Common Names

 
 

eastern crayfish

northern crayfish

virile crayfish

 
       

 

Crayfish or Crawfish?

The taxonomically correct term for members of the superfamilies Astacoidea and Parastacoidea is crayfish. "Crawfish" is a southern dialectical variant of that word. It is commonly used in the United States and is accepted American English, but it is not used outside the United States.

 

 

 

 

Glossary

Carapace

The hard, upper (dorsal), shell-like covering (exoskeleton) of the body or at least the thorax of many arthropods and of turtles and tortoises. In crustaceans, it covers the cephalothorax.

 

Cephalothorax

The front part of the body of various arthropods, composed of the head region and the thoracic area fused together. Eyes, legs, and antennae are attached to this part.

 

Rostrum

The stiff, beak-like projection of the carapace or prolongation of the head of an insect, crustacean, or cetacean.

 

 

 

 

 

       
Visitor Photos
   

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Kirk Nelson
       

Several were crawling around a culvert that had water flowing into Wood Pond. They were about 1½ inches long.

  virile crayfish   virile crayfish
       
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Other Videos
 
  Northern Crayfish (Orconectes virilis?)
Carl Barrentine
 
   
 
About

Published on May 23, 2013

Northern Crawfish (Orconectes virilis) seems eager to migrate upstream, against the strong lotic current, during a high water event after three days of almost ceaseless precipitation. Photographed at the Turtle River State Park, North Dakota (22 May 2013).

   
       
  Crayfish - (virile crayfish I think) Who wants to get pinched?
Nature Now! - Chris Egnoto
 
   
 
About

Published on Aug 3, 2014

In this video, My friend Joe is learning to catch crayfish. It was pretty funny to be there. There is some cool crayfish facts and underwater footage.

   
       

 

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Visitor Sightings
   

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Kirk Nelson
6/24/2018

Location: Lebanon Hills Regional Park

Several were crawling around a culvert that had water flowing into Wood Pond. They were about 1½ inches long.

virile crayfish


     
     
 
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Created: 7/4/2018

Last Updated:

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