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Engaeus cunicularius (Family Parastacidae)



Engaeus cunicularius occurs in north-western and north-eastern Tasmania, the Bass Strait Islands and Victoria. (VIC, TAS, Bass Straight Islands)


The cephalothorax (head/middle section) is relatively large in comparison to the abdomen (tail section). The claws are large, and the movable finger moves up and down in the vertical plane. The surface of the palm of the large claw usually has a patch of short hair-like setae and the movable finger has granulations on the upper surface. The body is smooth and dark grey-brown overall. The claws are dark grey-brown with blackish fingers. Engaeus cunicularius is very similar to Engaeus quadrimanus but differs in colour and in having granulations on the upper surface of the movable finger on the large claws.

Ecology/Way of Life:

Engaeus cunicularius live in a wide variety of habitats from lowland areas up to altitudes of 350 m above sea level. Burrows are built in many types of habitat, from wet or dry sclerophyll forest to swamps or the margins of creeks and rivers. Burrows made close to the water margin in stream or creek banks either reach the water table or are directly connected to the creek. In many places, Engaeus cunicularius occur together with other species of burrowing crayfish. Burrowing crayfish feed primarily on plant roots and rarely leave their burrows. Females carry eggs beneath the abdomen until they hatch. Hatchlings resemble tiny adults and probably live in the burrow with the adults as is the case with many other species of burrowing crayfish.

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Interaction with Humans/Threats:

Engaeus cunicularius is widely distributed, being one of two species of burrowing crayfish that occur in both Tasmania and Victoria. Consequently, Engaeus cunicularius is not presently considered under threat. However, as with other burrowing crayfish, the potential threats to Engaeus cunicularius are habitat loss or reduction, due to forest clearing, and land development.

Other Comments:

Engaeus cunicularius was named cunicularius by Erichson in 1846.

Further Reading:

Horwitz, P. (1990). A taxonomic revision of species in the freshwater crayfish genus Engaeus Erichson (Decapoda: Parastacidae). Invertebrate Taxonomy 4(3): 427–614.

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


Text and map by Shane Ahyong. Photograph by Patrick Johnson

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Images and Multi-media:  
Attached Image  
image/gif 90273 bytes Engaeus cunicularius
Distribution Map  
image/jpeg 5580 bytes Distribution of Engaeus cunicularius

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