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Destructive activity of Fallicambarus devastator
Hobbs & Whiteman, 1987 a Neches River Basin (Texas) Crayfish

CrayfishFallicambarus devastator Hobbs & Whiteman, 1987, USNM 219374

crayfish burrowsThe existence of this economically important crayfish came to light from an Associated Press article in the Cumberland Times/News (Cumberland, Maryland, 15 May 1986) reporting a crayfish that was having a huge impact on farmers, gardens and lawns, and airport runways. Some specimens of this crayfish were sent by Mike Whiteman for identification to the late Dr. Horton H. Hobbs, Jr., a specialists on these crustaceans at the Smithsonian. After studying and comparing the specimens with those in the Smithsonian collection, he found the specimens to represent a new species which they formally documented and named: Fallicambarus devastator Hobbs & Whiteman, 1987. This crayfish species builds large underground chambers that are connected to the surface by earthen mounds called “chimneys”. One farm was found to have 25,000 mounds per acre, with an average height of 12 cm. The chimneys can cause damage to harvesting tractors when the underground chambers collapse under the weight of the vehicle and damage the wheels. Also, the burrowing activity of this crayfish can bring sodium salts to the surface, reducing land productivity.

Crayfish are crustaceans that belong to the Order Decapoda (the name means ten legs) and they are related to crabs, shrimp and lobsters. All crustaceans are characterized by having two pairs of antennae, and a hard exoskeleton. Crayfish are highly successful freshwater decapods.

There are more than 640 species of crayfish throughout the world living in streams, ponds, lakes, and caves. Some species live beneath rocks or debris; others build burrows for protection and over wintering. Most crayfish (sometimes called “crawfish”) are about 10 cm (4 inches) long, although some Australian species can be as large as the better known marine lobsters. Larger crayfish are cultured or harvested for human consumption.

The Crustacea collection at the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) has one of the largest number of crayfish specimens (over 25,000), mostly from the United States. A website listing over 17,000 references on crayfish can be found at: http://iz.carnegiemnh.org/crayfish/cfref/

The Smithsonian collection of crustaceans occupies six and one-half miles of shelving and contains more than 60 million specimens from all over the world. Scientists study the biodiversity of our planet using this invaluable collection

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