Spiny-cheek crayfish

The Spiny-cheek crayfish Orconectes limosus is native to North America. It was the first non-native crayfish to be introduced to Europe from North America and was introduced to Europe in the 1890s.  It is found in Germany where it was introduced to compensate for the demand for the Noble crayfish whose population was in decline. The Spiny-cheek crayfish was first recorded in Britain in 1995. The species has been recorded in various locations throughout Britain: West Sussex, a pond in Warwickshire, the River Arrow, and the River Lee in London.

Like its fellow North American crayfish (the Signal crayfish, the Red Swamp crayfish and the Virile crayfish), the Spiny-cheek crayfish is a vector of ‘crayfish plague’.  Therefore it is known to have a negative impact on indigenous crayfish populations. The O. limosus is known to burrow aggressively into river banks. It is unusual in that it lives in silty streams, rather than the clear water usually preferred by crayfish.

The spiny-cheek crayfish is a relatively small crayfish, with the largest growing to approximately 11cm. They have spiny cheeks, orange tips on their legs and have a striped abdomen.  However they are often coloured black from the sediment they inhabit. The O. limosus has been mistaken for the Turkish crayfish in Britain, as they share similar features such as the spiny sides to the carapace and the sharp spine on the carapace of the cheliped.

The species mate in spring, females lay an average of 138 eggs, they carry the eggs until they hatch in May or June, a second mating season can occur in autumn with the second hatch in spring. The species are highly fecund and mature in their second summer. They have a relatively short life averaging 2 years.

Read a review of this species here: The spiny-cheek crayfish, Orconectes limosus (Rafinesque, 1817) [Crustacea: Decapoda: Cambaridae], digs into the UK.



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