Australian Aquatic Biological

Australian aquatic biodiversity research and consultancy

A New Spiny Crayfish in Western Drainage, NSW.

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.

The New Euastacus species for NSW showing an unusual colour variation

The New Euastacus species for NSW showing an unusual colour variation

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 Euastacus is a true spiny crayfish with numerous large sharp spines

The New Euastacus is a true spiny crayfish with numerous large sharp spines

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.

The new species is small in size with the majority of the female population breeding each year

The new species is small in size with the majority of the female population breeding each year

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

East Gippsland Survey Season Commences 2016

Euastacus crassus

Euastacus crassus upper Murray River

The high country of East Gippsland is a difficult area to survey as the window of opportunity is small. In summer it’s too hot and subject to bushfires and road closures. In winter, it’s too cold and the crayfish have retired to their deep burrows being extremely difficult to find. This just leaves the spring and autumn crayfish survey season.

Our surveys in East Gippsland are targeted to answer a number of questions we have concerning the species present and their distributions. Unfortunately, the more we research the more questions are raised and we don’t seem to be making much forward progress despite accumulating huge amounts of new information.

 

1st Survey

The first survey was conducted in March by Craig Burnes and Rob McCormack, of the upper Murray and upper Snowy River tributaries in the Victorian Alpine National Park.

New Euastacus crassus Little River

New Euastacus crassus Little River

They surveyed the start of the Murray River from its most eastern and southern point in the Alpine National Park of Victoria. They were looking for Euastacus rieki, Euastacus claytoni and Euastacus crassus which occur in tributaries of the Murray River further north. What they found most closely matched Euastacus crassus in morphology but had a gastric mill count closer to Euastacus claytoni. Morgan 1997 did record lower TAP counts from specimens further west from the Bogong High Plains but genetic analysis will be very interesting.

Gastric mill upper Murray River

Gastric mill upper Murray River

Craig and Rob also surveyed the adjoining drainages of the upper Snowy River. The Little, Suggan Buggan and Buchan rivers were surveyed providing comparative material. Specimens from the Little River a tributary of the Snowy River for example vary in morphology but the gastric mill more closely resembles the norm for Euastacus crassus.

Gastric mill upper Little River (Snowy Rv)

Gastric mill upper Little River (Snowy Rv)

Specimens collected from each drainage will be included in a broad genetics study including specimens from the Tambo River in Victoria and the new population of E. crassus discovered in the Shoalhaven drainage. Stay tuned for results.

For further information on Euastacus crassus from the upper Murray & Snowy rivers see http://www.austcray.com/2016/04/alpine-national-park-victoria-new-euastacus-crassus/

 

2nd Survey

Surveys of the eastern tributaries of the Snowy River have been completed and resulted in the redescription of Euastacus diversus.

Coughran J, McCormack RB and Fetzner Jr. JW (2015). Re-description of the Orbost spiny crayfish, Euastacus diversus Riek 1969 (Decapoda: Parastacidae), in eastern Victoria, Australia. Freshwater Crayfish 21(1): 185-197.

In that paper we identified the species occurring within the next drainage east – the Bemm River as being a potentially new species. This has generated a species specific project, requiring the surveying of the Bemm and adjoining eastern drainages.

As part of this project an ACP survey team gathered to survey the Arte River drainage a major tributary of the Bemm River. We hadn’t surveyed this river before so it was essential information needed as part of the project to help increase our knowledge base.

Andrew Lincoln, Craig Burnes, Rob McCormack, Joe Henderson, Jo Edwards, Jim Reside

The Team – Andrew Lincoln, Craig Burnes, Rob McCormack, Joe Henderson, Jo Edwards, Jim Reside

The team consisted of Andrew Lincoln, Craig Burnes, Rob McCormack, Joe Henderson, Jo Edwards and Jim Reside. We met up in Orbost and Kuark Forest to survey the tributaries of the Arte River.

Euastacus sp. Arte Rv - Spec 5737

Euastacus sp. Arte Rv – Spec 5737

We surveyed a large number of streams and were successful in finding Engaeus, Euastacus sp, and Euastacus kershawi. We were specifically targeting Euastacus sp and the specimens collected will be used for our morphological and genetics program for this species. Further surveys are needed in the other tributaries of the Bemm and adjoining drainages, hence, this project will continue for some time.

Euastacus sp. Arte River, Victoria

Euastacus sp. Arte River, Victoria. Spec 5739

My thanks to the team members who guided us through the back roads of the forest despite many of them being disused and overgrown.

The survey convoy held up by a blocked road

The survey convoy held up by a blocked road

Clearing the forest road

Clearing the forest road

The 3rd Survey

Was conducted by Craig Burnes and Rob McCormack of tributaries of the Cann and Genoa Rivers. This survey again created more questions than answers. We were expecting to find Euastacus bidawalus and we were successful in finding them with the ones we found matching the morphological description of E. bidawalus. Then however, we found specimens in the Genoa River catchment that did not match the current description. This is a dilemma, is this just morphological variation between populations 1 km apart or two separate species. Instead of answers again more questions and further research needed.

Euastacus bidawalus, Cann Rv, (Spec 5751)

Euastacus bidawalus, Cann Rv, (Spec 5751)

Euastacus sp, Genoa Rv, (Spec 5755)

Euastacus sp, Genoa Rv, (Spec 5755)

It’s always a pleasure investigating the East Gippsland forests and streams; we will be back as soon as we can to do it all over again.

Cheers

Rob McCormack

 

 

Orbost Spiny Crayfish paper finally published

Euastacus diversus from Ellery Creek (Brodribb drainage) showing 2 marginal squamal spines

Euastacus diversus from Ellery Creek (Brodribb drainage) showing 2 marginal squamal spines

Started in 2005 the quest to rediscover the Orbost Spiny Crayfish Euastacus diversus has been a long and intriguing journey cumulating in the publication of this paper.

This story began back in 1959 when one of Australia’s foremost expert on freshwater crayfish at that time, Edgar Riek, discovered this small freshwater crayfish species in the east Gippsland region of Victoria. Then in 1969 he described the species and named it Euastacus diversus. Since that day this crayfish has remained a rare and elusive species.

In 1986, the then current expert on the genus Euastacus, Gary Morgan, searched for this species but was unable to find any in the wild. As a consequence he redescribed the handful of original specimens collected by Riek in 1959 that are held at the Australian Museum. Gary Morgan’s detailed description, published in the Memoirs of the Museum of Victoria 30th May 1986, was the latest scientific publication on this species and forms the basis of all current information and opinions until now.

In 2005, the Australian Crayfish Project (ACP) was started, involving one of the largest projects researching freshwater crayfish ever seen in Australia. Between 2005 and 2007 we also failed to find any specimens of Euastacus diversus for the type locality general area 40 miles north of Orbost. Then in 2007 we changed our methods and successfully started finding more and more specimens. Up to 2011 a considerable number of E. diversus and other Euastacus species were found in the wild. The project has been very successful in finding this and other crayfish species, and large areas of southern NSW and eastern Victoria were systematically biologically surveyed specifically for freshwater crayfish. We found Euastacus specimens everywhere and most did not match the description for the known species leading to much confusion. However, genetic analysis by the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in the USA helped clarify the situation resulting in the thorough redescription of E. diversus and the discover of a number of new species.

Euastacus diversus redescription 2015

Euastacus diversus redescription 2015

The research culminated in this paper titled “Re-description of the Orbost Spiny Crayfish, Euastacus diversus Riek 1969 (Decapoda: Parastacidae), in Eastern Victoria, Australia” published in the journal “Freshwater Crayfish”. The paper redescribes Euastacus diversus to include the Bonang River crayfish (previously thought to be a new species).

The Bonang River crayfish from the most northern extent of distribution

The Bonang River crayfish from the most northern extent of distribution

The Bonang taxon represent a morphologically distinct population of Euastacus diversus that is genetically 1.95% divergent from the E. diversus type locality populations.

Euastacus diversus from Riddle Creek

Euastacus diversus from Riddle Creek

The research extends the distribution of the species to the Brodribb, Yalmy, Rodger and Bonang River drainages at elevations ranging from 350 – 950 m a.s.l., with an overall Extent of Occurrence of 465 km2. Research continues on E. diversus which will surely increase the Extent of Occurrence. Research also continues on the new Euastacus species and hopefully the first of the new species descriptions will be published later this year.

Citation:

Coughran J, McCormack RB and Fetzner Jr. JW (2015). Re-description of the Orbost spiny crayfish, Euastacus diversus Riek 1969 (Decapoda: Parastacidae), in eastern Victoria, Australia. Freshwater Crayfish 21(1): 185-197.

 

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Ellen Clarks Crayfish Euastacus clarkae Paper Published

Euastacus clarkae

Euastacus clarkae

Between 2005 and 2012 the Australian Crayfish Project (ACP) has been researching an IUCN listed Critically Endangered species Euastacus clarkae. Then in 2013 the ACP received a Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund (MBZSCF) grant (Project 12054688) and I am extremely grateful for their generous support. The MBZSCF is a significant philanthropic endowment established to provide targeted grants to individual species conservation initiatives, recognize leaders in the field of species conservation and elevate the importance of species in the broader conservation debate (http://www.speciesconservation.org/). With their valuable support and the support of NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service we were able to complete this massive project.

Ellen Clark's Crayfish Euastacus clarkae

Ellen Clark’s Crayfish Euastacus clarkae

The entire Hastings River catchment some 3846 km2 was surveyed and established the Extent of Occurrence for E. clarkae at only 200 km2. This project not only supplied critical information on E. clarkae but documented the distribution of all Parastacidae species occurring in the catchment. The research on the rest of the catchment is ongoing but so far in proposed follow up scientific manuscripts we will remove one Euastacus species currently listed as occurring in the Hastings Drainage and add 2 new Euastacus species never previously recorded – stay tuned.

Berried Female E. clarkae

Berried Female E. clarkae

Pages from 12. JCB_2315W_McCormack (1)

The E. clarkae paper was published in the prestigious Journal of Crustacean Biology (JCB). The Journal of Crustacean Biology is the official journal of The Crustacean Society for the publication of research on any aspect of the biology of Crustacea & other marine arthropods. It is a peer-reviewed, scientific journal containing papers of broad interest on crustacean biology and other marine arthropods, biographies of renowned carcinologists, book reviews of works on Crustacea, and pertinent announcements. As a member of The Crustacean Society I would recommend that you all join us as members if you are interested in Crustacea. The mission of the Crustacean Society is to advance the study of all aspects of the biology of the Crustacea by promoting the exchange and dissemination of information throughout the world. http://www.thecrustaceansociety.org/

 

A B S T R A C T

The imperiled Clark’s crayfish, Euastacus clarkae Morgan (1997), was described from a handful of juvenile specimens collected from one location in 1981. The Australian Crayfish Project recently completed an intensive field survey project to better define its distribution, habitat, biology and conservation status. Euastacus clarkae is restricted to headwater reaches of highland streams feeding the Hastings and Forbes rivers, at elevations ranging from 670-1150 m. The entire Hastings River catchment (3846 km2) was surveyed and established the Extent of Occurrence for E. clarkae at 200 km2. The distribution was almost entirely located within Werrikimbe National Park where the species was locally abundant. We recommended conservation down listing from Critically Endangered to Endangered and present information to support future conservation efforts and allow specific management plans to be drafted for this rare, highland species. To assist with identification we provide a key to this and other Euastacus found in the Hastings and adjoining drainages.

McCormack, R.B. (2015). Conservation of imperiled crayfish, Euastacus clarkae Morgan, 1997 (Decapoda: Parastacidae), a highland crayfish from the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia’s World Heritage Area. Journal of Crustacean Biology, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 282 – 291. DOI: 10.1163/1937240X-00002315

 

Translocated Cherax paper published

Translocated Cherax destructor from Mount White, NSW

Translocated Cherax destructor from Mount White, NSW

Based on the results of the Australian Crayfish Project a scientific paper on the translocation of the yabby Cherax destructor into eastern drainages of New South Wales, has been published in the scientific journal “Australian Zoologist”. The Royal Zoological Society publishes a fully refereed scientific journal, Australian Zoologist, specialising in topics relevant to Australian zoology. The Australian Zoologist was first published by the Society in 1914, making it the oldest Australian journal specialising in zoological topics. The scope of the journal has increased substantially in the last 20 years, and it now attracts papers on a wide variety of zoological, ecological and environmentally related topics.The Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales is a non-profit, scientific organisation dedicated to the study and conservation of native Australian fauna.  http://rzsnsw.org.au/

Translocated Cherax destructor from Piles Creek, Gosford, NSW

Translocated Cherax destructor from Piles Creek, Gosford, NSW

Abstract

The blue claw yabby Cherax destructor is a native of the Murray Darling drainage basin in the interior of south-eastern Australia. In New South Wales (NSW) the species naturally occurs west of the Great Dividing Range but recently, it has become established in eastern parts of NSW, outside of its natural range. The potential threats and translocation of this species into eastern NSW was first documented at 20 sites by Coughran et al. (2009). This paper builds on their initial work and documents a further 52 translocation sites (Table 1) recorded over the last four years. In an effort to further our understanding of the threat, we present information on the dispersal of this species together with observational information on interactions with freshwater crayfish (Parastacidae) species and suggest recommendations to help slow the translocation process.

McCormack, R.B. (2014). New records and review of the translocation of the yabby Cherax destructor into eastern drainages of New South Wales, Australia. Australian Zoologist. Volume 37 (1) 85 – 94. ISSN 0067-2238 (Print). http://doi.org/10.7882/AZ.2014.006

Yabbies make great pets and are excellent eating, but unlike the endemic freshwater crayfish in eastern drainages, they grows fast, mature early, breed frequently and have a shorter gestation period. These are traits that equip it to potentially out-compete the endemic freshwater crayfish. Their rapid proliferation, aggressive disposition and invasive habits tend to rapidly displace the endemic eastern crayfish. The NSW Fisheries Scientific Committee has listed ‘The introduction of fish to fresh waters within a river catchment outside their natural range’ as a Key Threatening Process (KTP) under the Fisheries Management Act 1994 (FM Act), and the yabby is certainly a threat in eastern NSW. This paper documents ACP research over the last 4 years and is a must for those interested in the conservation of our endemic eastern crayfish species.

 

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