This week, the internet has been buzzing with news of a brand new species of giant crayfish. This news delighted animal lovers and er, seafood eaters, all across the world. It probably also inspired those who love horror movies like Godzilla to shriek away from the creatures of the deep.
But before you start screaming and running away for help or going to your nearest seafood restaurant, hankering after a giant crayfish – think again. This creature is a whopping five inches long or 12.7 cm long. Yep, that’s right – Five. Inches. Long. Fortunately, the world is currently safe from brand new giant crayfish that was recently discovered just crawling under a rock in Tennessee, United States. This creature is formally known as Barbicambarus simmonsi, and researchers say that this species is the largest ever found. In fact, according to a press release it is “double the size of any of its competitors”.
The giant crayfish
This new species is endemic to both Tennessee and Alabama. It is classified under the genus Barbicambarus. According to a study published in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, this species features a “bearded” antennae which is covered with tiny bristles similar to hair called setae. This provides the antennae with more sensory functions.
The people who scientifically described this fish are Chris Taylor, and Guenter Schuster who is a Biological Sciences Professor at Kentucky University. They first received the photos of this giant crayfish in 2009.
This giant crayfish was spotted for the first time underneath a rock Shoal Creek, Tennessee. Schuster said in the release, “We had worked so hard and long that we were ready to give up and find another site. And we saw this big flat boulder underneath a bridge and so we said, ‘OK. Let’s flip this rock, just for the heck of it; this will be our last one.’ And sure enough, that’s where we got the first specimen.”
Taylor and Schuster went back to Shoal Creek a few more times in order to get enough specimens to confirm that this was indeed a new giant species. There are over 600 species of crayfish identified in the world, and most of them are found in North America.
The team at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Eastern Kentucky University said that this new crayfish should not have been easily overlooked as it is huge. However, this crustacean is also quite rare.
Chris Taylor, an Aquatic Biologist at the University of Illinois said, “This isn’t a crayfish that someone would have picked up and just said, ‘Oh, it’s just another crayfish,’ and put it back.”
“You would have recognised it as something really, really different and you would have saved it,” he added in a statement.
Taylor and Schuster found their first specimen under one of the biggest rocks in the deepest part of a commonly explored creek in Tennessee. “This thing had not been seen by scientific eyes until last year,” Taylor said.
“We spend millions of dollars every year on federal grants to send biologists to the Amazon, to Southeast Asia – all over the world looking for and studying the biodiversity of these regions,” Schuster said. “But the irony is that there’s very little money that is actually spent in our own country to do the same thing. And there are still lots of areas right here in the U.S. That need to be explored”.
This species truly goes to show that there are species out there all the time that are just crawling right under our noses.