Department of Environmental Conservation

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Crayfish (Decapoda)

General Information about Crayfish (Decapoda)
Life history Crayfish live their entire life cycle in the water; they live for about 2 years.
Diversity There are four families with freshwater crayfish in North America.
Skin is thick and hard; long "nose"; large eyes; 5 pairs of walking legs; flipper at end of tail; large claws; looks like a little lobster.
Habitat & Feeding Crayfish may be found in streams, large rivers, ponds, lakes, swamps, marshes, underground waters, and wet meadows. Crayfish are omnivorous, feeding on aquatic plants (mostly decaying) and animals.
Water quality indicator status Crayfish are tolerant of most pollution and environmental stress (temperature, pH, alkalinity). Although, they bioaccumulate some metals (mercury); crayfish tissue samples can be used to detect contamination.
Fun facts
  • Crayfish are a food resource for fish, snakes, raccoons, and people.
  • When disturbed in the water, crayfish use their "flipper" to quickly scoot backwards through the water.