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

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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2015 Expedition to Far North Queensland

Cocoa Creek, Townsville, just on dusk

Cocoa Creek, Townsville, just on dusk

Early September 2015 four volunteers on the Australian Crayfish Project (ACP) met at Townsville Queensland for a crayfish research expedition. We met at Cocoa Creek, on Cape Cleveland approximately 17 km east of Townsville. We all got there pretty much together just before sunset. Cocoa Creek is a small muddy deep water creek flowing through the mangroves. Last time we were there it was full of fish, mudcrabs and rumour had it one small (1.2 m) crocodile.

Karl with 4 mudcrabs in first 35 minutes

Karl with 4 mudcrabs in first 35 minutes

As soon as camp was set up we started having a fish just on dark. Karl dropped in a couple of crab traps and after 35 minutes he pulled the first out and jackpot, 4 mudcrabs. We failed to catch many fish that night but what was biting we biting midges or sand flies. They were in abundance and a major hassle as nothing repelled them.

The following morning Karl and I headed for Mt Elliott whilst Paul and Phil held the fort and stayed at base camp on Cocoa creek.

Base camp, hiking hammocks between trees

Base camp, Mt Elliot, hiking hammocks between trees

Karl and I made it to the base of Mt Elliot at the falls, set up a camp and then started climbing the mountain. We made it well up and then back that day, just blazing a trail and flagging a track ready for the early start the following morning.

The base of the Falls, Alligator Creek

The base of the Falls, Alligator Creek

We were climbing Mt Elliott to research the Mt Ellliot Crayfish Euastacus bindal one of Australias most endangered and rarest freshwater crayfish species with a small knowledge base.

Euastacus bindal

Euastacus bindal

The ACP has been researching this species since 2008 and this is our 5th expedition up the mountain. Once again we gathered more information which has been added to our paper and eventually we will publish our findings. Unfortunately, we will need further expeditions up the mountain so stay tuned.

Base camp Koombooloomba Dam

Base camp Koombooloomba Dam

After Mt Elliot we headed to Koombooloomba Dam, some 28 km south south east of Ravenshoe, Queensland. The dam has been constructed on the Tully River and we set up a base camp there to research the Cardwell Hairy Crayfish Euastacus yigara. One of the least known and researched Euastacus crayfish species in Australia. Our research on E. yigara was very successful and eventually we will publish our results. For an article on E. yigara “Click Here”.

Euastacus yigara

Euastacus yigara

Paul brought his boat which we launched on Koombooloomba Dam and we were able to access all the feeder streams that drain into the dam. We would motor up to the end of a bay, hop out and follow the stream into the rainforest and research E. yigara.

Paul Van der Werf, digging an E. yigara burrow complex

Paul Van der Werf, digging an E. yigara burrow complex

Success, an adult female Euastacus yigara

Success, an adult female Euastacus yigara

We also found both in the dam streams and those we surveyed in the wider area, Cherax parvus, Zebra Shrimp, another Caridina shrimp species, Rainbow Fish and Trout Gudgeons.

Euastacus parvus

Euastacus parvus

Northern Trout Gudgeon Mogurnda mogurnda

Northern Trout Gudgeon Mogurnda mogurnda

Zebra Shrimp Caridina zebra

Zebra Shrimp Caridina zebra

Between researching crayfish we also had a fish in the dam. Sooty Grunter were plentiful and we caught quite a few for dinners at night after a hard days cray chasing.

Phil with a nice Sooty Grunter

Phil with a nice Sooty Grunter

For 5 days we researched E. yigara then we moved to Hinchinbrook Island.

Our base camp at Lucinda

Our base camp at Lucinda

We made camp at Lucinda opposite the southern end of Hinchinbrook Island in the “Wanderers Holiday Village”. Camping was at a premium and we only just managed to get a space squeezed in between caravans. This was our base camp for daily expeditions across the bay to Hinchinbrook Island. We would motor across to Hinchinbrook then follow the creeks up into freshwater and survey for freshwater crayfish.

Paul foreground and Karl background surveying a freshwater stream of Hinchinbrook Island

Paul foreground and Karl background surveying a freshwater stream of Hinchinbrook Island

It was a great trip and we will do it again next year. I drove 5,500km to get there and back so 2 days each way just gettings there. Hopefully, next year we will do a fly in and fly out trip.

Cheers

Rob

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

 

Riek’s Crayfish Euastacus rieki (first breeding record)

Berried Euastacus reiki from Namadgi National Park, ACT

Berried Euastacus rieki from Namadgi National Park, ACT

The ACT Aquatic Team  from the ACT Government’s Conservation Planning and Research Unit sent me this photo of a berried Euastacus rieki and I just had to share it with you all. It’s the first female with eggs recorded and a tremendous leap towards filling the huge knowledge gaps on this cryptic species.

The Aquatic Team from the ACT Government’s Conservation Planning and Research Unit have been surveying subalpine bogs as well as creeks and rivers in the ACT to determine potential methods for a broader distribution survey of two species of spiny crayfish.

The current project is stage 1 to test methods for a program to determine the distribution and relative abundance of Euastacus crassus and Euastacus rieki. Despite being the type location for Euastacus rieki, very little is known on the distribution or habits of these two species in the ACT or elsewhere.

Among the more than 50 crayfish collected the team discovered two berried E. rieki (42 & 53mm OCL) with 100, 3.5mm orange eggs. Both crays were collected in a subalpine bog (approximately 1600m a.s.l) in Namadgi National Park.

This is the first breeding information regarding E. rieki and indicates that berried females remain active and are likely to hold their eggs over winter, despite the frequent snow cover and sub zero temperatures. Improved monitoring of alpine areas will be important in understanding potential impacts from climate change

The project was directed by ecologists from the Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate of the ACT Government. The work has been supported through ACT Government climate change funding.

Euastacus rieki from Yarrangobilly, NSW

Euastacus rieki from Yarrangobilly, NSW

 

 

 

 

 

 

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