?What do you call the miniature lobster that one finds in lakes and streams (a crustacean of the family Cambaridae), as in the image below?

Answer the question!

Before reading on, take the survey!! Inspired by Harvard’s Dialect Survey, I want to know what common name you have for the animal in the picture below (the survey is just one question). You can find results from the survey here. Then read on to find out more about the animal!

Crayfish in Vermont

A crawdad you catch
A crawfish you eat
A crayfish you study

…or so I’ve heard. Regardless of what you call these animals, they certainly merit more attention in Vermont than they currently get. Worldwide, there are 650+ species of crayfish (“crayfish” comprise three families in the superfamily Astacoidea), with the highest diversity found in North America (we have 400+ species in two families: Astacidae and Cambaridae). The highest diversity of crayfish is in the southeast, which is also where crayfish hold the most commercial and cultural significance.

There isn’t a lot of information (recent or old) about crayfish in the northeast. The two best resources are a publication from 1979 on crayfish of the northeast and the more recent guide to crayfish of the White River watershed, which only covers a small part of the state. On this site, you’ll find here information on the 10 native and non-native species that have been fouin Vermont, identification tips, an overview of crayfish life history, and activities to study crayfish.

Results of common names for the little freshwater lobsters in the Astaceae family
Full Results

Identifying Crayfish

For most people, crayfish tend to all look like little brown lobsters. But once you learn what to look for, ID seems not just vaguely possibly, but actually easy and, dare I say, fun! It’s often easier to sex a crayfish than to identify a species, so here we’ll cover both species and sex identification.

Anatomy
Species ID
Male/Female ID

Natural history of crayfish

Species identification is just one skill in coming to a deeper understanding of how crayfish fit into Vermont’s landscape. This section covers the anatomy, behavior, and life history of crayfish in general, and specific details on the species you’ll encounter in Vermont’s waterways.

Studying crayfish
Life History
Profiles

Resources on crayfish

  • Crayfish of the White River Watershed: source
  • Crayfish curriculum for educators: source
  • The Crayfishes of New England: source
  • Species of Ontario Crayfish: source
  • Online lecture about crayfish: video