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Engaewa similis (Family Parastacidae)


Engaewa similis is known only from coastal south-western Australia in the region between Margaret River, Augusta and the D'Entrecasteaux National park. (WA)


Engaewa similis have a relatively large cephalothorax (head/middle section) in comparison to the abdomen (tail section). The claws are held forward and the movable finger moves in the vertical or near vertical plane. Species of Engaewa look similar to species of Engaeus, but Engaeus species occur only in south-eastern Australia. Engaewa similis is whitish below and pale-purple above. The upper portion of the claws are deep-purple.

Ecology/Way of Life:

Species of Engaewa are all burrowers and are known only from coastal areas of south-western Australia. They excavate deep and complicated burrow systems in lowland swamp habitats such as peatlands and coastal swamps. Burrowing crayfish excavate mud and debris from their burrow forming a chimney or mound at the mouth of the burrow. As with species of Engaeus from south-eastern Australia, the south-western burrowing crayfish probably feed on plant roots and other vegetable matter.

Interaction with Humans/Threats:

The major threat to Engaewa similis, as well as other burrowing crayfish is habitat degradation. If the wetland habitats that these crayfish live are drained for agriculture, land reclamation or sand mining, the crayfish populations may be reduced or destroyed. Moreover, if the acidic, organic rich soil of these wetland habitats is drained, acid-sulfate-soil and its associated problems may result. At present, Engaewa similis is probably relatively secure because it is widespread and also occurs within National Parks. Most other species of Engaewa, however, have narrower ranges in less favourable habitats and can be variously classed as vulnerable to critically endangered.

Other Comments:

Engaewa similis was named similis by Riek in 1967.

Further Reading:

Horwitz, P. (1990). The Conservation Status of Australian Freshwater Crustacea. Report Series No. 14. Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Horwitz, P. & Adams, M. (2000). The systematics, biogeography and conservation status of species in the freshwater crayfish genus Engaewa Riek (Decapoda: Parastacidae) from south-western Australia. Invertebrate Taxonomy 14: 665–680.

Jones, D. S. & G. J. Morgan. (1994). A Field Guide to Crustaceans of Australian Waters. Reed Books, Sydney.


Text and map by Shane Ahyong. Photograph by P. Horwitz

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