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White River Crayfish
(Procambarus acutus acutus)
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Species at a Glance
The white river crayfish, also referred to as the white river crawfish and the eastern white river crayfish, is often confused with its southern counterpart, the southern white river crayfish (Procambarus zonangulus). The eastern white river crayfish occurs naturally in the United States and is cultured eastwards from Louisiana to the Atlantic coast northward to Maine, but has established select non-native populations in locations throughout the east coast and in California.
Adult white river crayfish are usually a dark burgundy red but can range in color from pinkish tan to brownish olive with a black “V” stripe on the abdomen. The carapace is rough and granular and is separated in the middle by a narrow space called the areola. Juveniles are gray with dark spots scattered over the carapace. The claws are long and narrow, delicate in appearance, and have small dark tubercles. White river crayfish reach about 6-13 cm (2.5-5 in) in length.
The white river crayfish most closely resembles the southern white river crayfish (P. zonangulus), which is nearly impossible to distinguish without looking at the gonopods of a first-form male, and the red swamp crayfish (P. clarkii). Red swamp crayfish have a linear or obliterate areola, and a black “V-shaped” stripe on the abdomen, and the juveniles are typically plain or striped on the carapace instead of spotted. White river crayfish can also be found in streams and ditches with a stronger flow than what’s preferred by the red swamp crayfish.
The white river crayfish is typically found in open waters of sloughs, swampy areas, sluggish lowland streams and ditches, or in small streams and lakes along the floodplains of streams. It will frequently burrow into sediments to escape drying or freezing.
Because this species is used in bait and aquaculture, it is most likely spread intentionally and unintentionally when they are released by anglers using them as bait, aquarists who keep them as pets, landowners who stock them in ponds, and by consumers who purchased them from live food markets.
The native range for this species extends from the Southern Atlantic coast drainage from Georgia to Maine, from the Florida panhandle to Mexico, and from the Central Mississippi Valley to the upper Great Lakes Drainages. It was introduced intentionally into California and New England for aquaculture and bait, and has been found in Pennsylvania in Adams, Bedford, Chester, Crawford, Erie, Luzerne, Monroe, and Philadelphia Counties.
Note: Distribution data for this species may have changed since the publication of Pennsylvania's Field Guide to Aquatic Invasive Species (Second Edition 2015), the source of information for this description.
*To learn more about the native/invasive range of White river crayfish in Pennsylvania, check out the information available for this species on our Invasive Here but Not There page.
While the impacts of this species are relatively unknown, the white river crayfish has been classified as a high-risk species by individual invasiveness assessments. Because it is an opportunistic feeder, it is expected to outcompete native crayfish for resources like shelter and food. It could also act as a vector for parasites and disease.
Information for this species profile comes from Pennsylvania's Field Guide to Aquatic Invasive Species (Second Edition 2015).