Research Project 100007 initiated in 2008 has finally been completed. This project has been ongoing for the last 10 years, but has at last culminated in the publication of a description of a NEW Euastacus species for the western drainage of New South Wales, Australia.
The Cudgegong Giant Spiny Crayfish Euastacus vesper is described from the upper reaches of the Cudgegong River, east of Kandos NSW. The description was published in May 2017 in the international journal Zootaxa.
Euastacus vesper sp. nov., a new giant spiny crayfish (Crustacea, Decapoda, Parastacidae) from the Great Dividing Range, New South Wales, Australia ROBERT B. MCCORMACK & SHANE T. AHYONG DOI: https://doi.org/10.11646/zootaxa.4244.4.6
This new species seemingly has a very small distribution and faces a large range of serious threats. The next Project will to systematically survey the surrounding area and accurately define the exact distribution of the species and then publish a paper of its conservation status, something we consider based on the available information, would be “Critically Endangered”.
Research Project 100084 has been generated to designate a conservation status for this new Euastacus species.
For another article on E. vesper, see:
This species is endemic to Victoria with a relatively small distribution known at this time (estimated extent of occurrence of approximately 200 km2). Found in the upper Yarra, Acheron, Yea and Big Rivers. An area roughly from Kinglake to Eildon to Jamieson to Noojee to Hoddles Creek. Central Highlands Burrowing Cray Engaeus affinis has been assessed on the IUCN Red List as Data Deficient.
It’s a robust species and at many sites relatively abundant. Typically, it’s a communal burrower, both type 2 & 3 burrows with multiple surface entrances (20 or so) over a square metre. Both fans shaped entrances and chimneys. Surface openings descend into large central burrows. Central burrows are relatively large in diameter (150 to 200 mm), typically water filled and tending horizontal and descending and converging into a larger chamber.
Typically, the easiest way to capture is to excavate down to the water level, usually from 200 to 600 mm deep. Once water is found, wait, (patience required), larger males will come to investigate the disturbance and you can grab them, otherwise, every 5 minutes or so, shove your hand down the burrow and feel around in the water. If you are lucky and have good feeling in your fingers you should be able to grab one every 5-10 minutes. That’s the way we collected the specimens for this article.
Those from Healesville were in a yellow clay on the slope beside a creek approximately 1.2 metres above the creek water height (7 metres from creek bank) but had water at 650 mm in the burrow system. Those from Badger Creek were in a fine silty material in a seepage area in the tree fern forest with water only 100 mm below ground level and over 100 m from Badger Creek.
Also known as “The Mernda Land Yabby” Engaeus quadrimanus (Clark 1936) is a relatively widespread and locally abundant species. It’s a lowland species generally found under 250 m a.s.l. from just north of Melbourne, east along the Victorian coast to just before the NSW border. Engaeus quadrimanus has been assessed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.
This specimen is from the west of the range. Collected from the bank of Fish Creek a tributary of the Tarwin River crossing Meeniyan-Promontory Rd, Fish Creek, Victoria.
A very robust and adaptable species that usually has large colonies with the area being riddled with burrows. Typically, burrows are round to oval in shape and open with excavated material at the entrance (see photo). In some areas they can create a pelleted chimney but for many areas it’s just an open hole in the ground as the excavated material has been washed away with flood waters. Burrows are type 2 and relatively basic with only 2-3 surface entrances descending to a horizontal corridor then a deeper burrow to water table. Typically most of the burrow system is flooded and typically they are individual burrows with both males and females having their own burrows. One of the keys to the species is that they are intersexed so hard to determine which are males and which females. Breeding season is autumn and they can be found sharing burrows together then. The species is extremely active during flood events and uses the creeks to migrate and find mates, etc.
For a similar article on this species and images from populations further east, go to: http://www.austcray.com/2015/09/engaeus-quadrimanus-from-cann-river-victoria/
Project: 100007 started back in 2008 final draws to a closure. The project that started out as an unidentified Euastacus crayfish species has been found in western drainage of NSW has been finalized with the completion of the project going to press.
A scientific manuscript title; Euastacus sp. nov., a new giant spiny crayfish (Crustacea, Decapoda, Parastacidae) from the Great Dividing Range, New South Wales, Australia, by Robert B. McCormack & Shane T. Ahyong has been completed and submitted to the journal Zootaxa.
The new species is described from the upper Cudgegong River, New South Wales, Australia This new species occurs in the western drainage of the Great Dividing Range, and is most closely related to E. spinifer (Heller, 1865), which occurs on the eastern side of the range. The new species differs from E. spinifer by its considerably smaller maximum size, greater degree of thoracic spination loosely arrayed in three instead of two rows, genetic sequence divergence in COI and unusual colour variations.
Both Euastacus armatus and the new Euastacus species occur in the upper Cudgegong River and this has led to much confusion in the past. Recent research by Whiterod et al., 2016 indicates that the E. armatus population in the upper Cudgegong is a translocated population.
In our present study, we formally describe this new Euastacus species, increasing the number of species of Euastacus to 53.
Cheers Rob McCormack
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