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Astacopsis franklinii (Family Parastacidae)

freshwater crayfish

Distribution:

Astacopsis franklinii is endemic to the eastern half of Tasmania, where it is found in streams, rivers and reservoirs. (TAS)

Features:

Astacopsis franklinii are usually dark brown with a paler underside, although juveniles can be pale orange in colour. The rostrum is narrow, V-shaped and terminates in a single blunt spine. Males and females are similar in overall body size. This is the smallest of the Astacopsis species; reaching a maximum weight of only 60 grams (Astacopsis gouldi can attain weights in excess of three kilograms). Body armature is heavy and Astacopsis species are sometimes referred to as spiny river-dwelling crayfish. Large spines and tubercles occur over most of the animal, particularly on the chelae (claws), carapace and abdomen.

Ecology/Way of Life:

These crayfish are usually found in sheltered creeks, streams and lakes, however they are capable of digging deep burrows in areas that are prone to occasional drying, such as buttongrass plains. The vegetation surrounding the water-bodies can consist of a variety of types; rainforest, eucalypt forest, tea-tree shrub, and buttongrass heath. The vegetation supplies most of the food for these animals; they eat semi-decayed wood, leaves, detritus and some animal matter.

Adults reach maturity at four years for males and six years for females, and they live for approximately 15 years. Females bear young only every second year, with mating and spawning occurring April to May. Eggs are carried over winter and the young hatch and stay attached to the mother through three moults, until the following autumn, when they are released.

Interaction with Humans/Threats:

Large areas within the range of this crayfish have been subject to clearing through farming, logging and the establishment of residential communities, however, these do not appear to have a major impact on the crayfish, and they can be found in streams and creeks in highly modified areas. There is some concern for this species through the introduction of a mainland crayfish species, Cherax destructor, which breeds faster than Astacopsis franklinii and therefore may out-compete and displace the native species. Despite their apparent potential as a food resource, Astacopsis franklinii is not suitable for aquaculture, due to a slow growth rate and preference for cool water.

Other Comments:

Astacopsis franklinii was named by Gray in 1845. The name is based on Latin, astacus meaning lobster; copsis meaning like and franklinii after Sir John Franklin, Governor of Tasmania 1837–1843.

Further Reading:

Hamr, P. (1992). A revision of the Tasmanian freshwater crayfish genus Astacopsis Huxley (Decapoda: Parastacidae. Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania 126: 91–94.

Acknowledgments:

Text and map by Brita Hansen. Photograph by A.M.M. Richardson.

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