By Cindy Ellis
Crawdads. In recent years, these critters have been featured in quite a few stories and references in The Highlands Voice. So, here is one more.
This spring, veteran member and Department of Environmental Protection retiree Doug Wood shared the news that he had found a blue “mudbug” on his own property in Putnam County. What made the discovery special was that this was Cambarus loughmani, only recognized as a species in January 2019. Moreover, this 3-inch beauty is named for a professor at West Liberty University in Ohio County, WV. Some of Dr. Zachary Loughman’s former students completed the detailed work necessary to establish a new find and they named it after him.
This year, in January, our own group was concentrating on two other crayfish species, endangered by mining. We joined with those commenting through the Center for Biological Diversity on the Big Sandy and the Guyandotte River crayfish. The comment letter noted the general value of these stream creatures: “Crayfishes, or crawdads, are a keystone animal because the holes they dig create habitat used by other species. Crayfish keep streams cleaner by eating decaying plants and animals, and they are eaten, in turn, by fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals, making them an important link in the food web. Their burrowing activity helps maintain healthy soil by transferring nutrients between soil layers.” It was also noted that crayfish can be an indicator species for water quality.
The one that Doug found is an upland burrowing species, difficult to find, and so far, they have only been found in Cabell, Kanawha, Lincoln, Mason and Putnam counties. However, some were found in Logan County and the theory is that they occur there due to transportation by fill dirt.
The abstract of the initial publication document gets technical with its description:
The new species described herein can be distinguished from all other members of CambarusErichson, 1846 by a double row of cristiform tubercles on the palm, an open areola with two rows of punctations, and a consistent blue colouration.
So, I might be looking for one, as well or poorly as I understand mudbug anatomy, but Doug reminded me that presently none have been found in “my” part of Putnam County…only the portion south of the Kanawha River. That area is the floodplain of the ancient Teays River, some say.
I appreciate that Doug Wood alerted us to his find and that we have so many members who are keen observers and willing learners and teachers. They encourage us to keep on looking down…and up…and all around, and sharing what we’ve found.
Here’s links to more information: