Giant New Crayfish New species of giant U.S. crayfish described

Photo by: L. Brian Stauffer.

‘A species of giant crayfish native to Tennessee in the United States has been scientifically described and given the name Barbicambarus simmonis.

Barbicambarus simmonis can reach a size of at least 5 inches (12,5 cm) which is twice the size of an average North American crayfish.

The researchers behind the paper in which Barbicambarus simmonis was described are Christopher Taylor from University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and Guenter Schuster from Eastern Kentucky University.

The first specimen was found by Tennessee Valley Authority scientist Jeffrey Simmons in 2010, and that is why the species bears his name. This specimen, as well as the specimen encountered by Taylor and Schuster, lived in Shoal Creek, a stream in southern Tennessee that ultimately drains into the Tennessee River. The creek has attracted the attention of researchers for at least half a century, which makes it reasonable to assume that Barbicambarus simmonis is either rare or very difficult to find.

You can find out more about Barbicambarus simmonis in the paper “Monotypic no more, a description of a new crayfish of the genus Barbicambarus Hobbs, 1969 (Decapoda: Cambaridae) from the Tennessee River drainage using morphology and molecules”  published in the journal Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington.

barbicambarus simmonsi New species of giant U.S. crayfish described

Barbicambarus simmonsi

Barbicambarus is a genus of freshwater crayfish that up until now had only one member: Barbicambarus cornutus. Barbicambarus cornutus is known only from the Barren River and Green River systems of Tennessee. The largest known specimens are 23 cm (9 inches) long, so this crayfish is even larger than Barbicambarus simmonis and one of the largest species of crayfish in North America*. It was scientifically described in 1884, but not seen again by scientists until the 1960s.

North America is rich in crayfish and also a comparatively well explored part of the world. Of the roughly 600 scientifically described species of crayfish, roughly 50% are native to North America. However, even though North America is such a well surveyed part of the world, new species are regularly described by scientists. The Pearl Map Turtle, Graptemys pearlensis, was for instance described in the summer of 2010. Just like Barbicambarus simmonis, this turtle is native to the southern part of the U.S. It lives in the Pearl River in Louisiana and Mississippi.