About Them: I have chosen a general species this time. There are a few subspecies that are struggling across Arkansas and Oklahoma, Cambarus aculabrum, Cambarus zophanastes, Cambarus tartarus. They are all small translucent or very light cray fish with poor eye site. The differences marked between them are super scientific sounding words about bodily form. Species in caves are evolved to function in the dark with little to no impact from outside. This means their metabolisms slow down, they mature later, and live longer. These are the worst characteristics to have when encountering sudden environmental changes.
Very little is actually known about these subspecies. For the Cambarus aculabrum crayfish found in Arkansas only 40 individuals have been counted total in a year. Given data from species of cave crayfish in Florida is it likely they have a life span of close to 40 years.
Their plight: They have very specific and limited habitat. They are in just a few caves, 4 in Arkansas/Missouri (one cave has 58 miles in Missouri) for Cambarus aculabrum and 3 for Cambarus zophanastes in Arkansas and seemingly only 3 across Oklahoma for Cambarus tartarus. The trouble for them is water pollution from storm run off and the clearing of plants on the surface causing less water to make it’s way into the caves, but instead evaporating.
They are also trampled by people walking in the caves.
What we should consider: How do you best help a species that has potentially a low population really no matter what you do? Also, is there a possibility that there are more caves where more of these species is living? Caves are so strange. I hope there are simply so we aren’t at such risk of seeing these crayfish go away.
What is being done: With limited data, the species is on the endangered species list, the most successful space where they live in Arkansas has become a National Wildlife Refuge and is protected with fences to keep out trespassers.
How to help: Continue bringing awareness. Call into state senators when legislation is being passed that could affect the continued support of policy that protects wildlife and waterways. Support locally.
Support can be:
- donating to science groups
- helping to ensure funding to the organizations that creating breeding programs
- being a citizen scientist through
- land restoration project
- trash clean ups
- species counts
- bio blitzes
- getting people you know excited about how incredible our planet’s biodiversity is.
Joining your local Audubon Society or other local conservation group is a great first step into finding activities and ways to become a citizen scientist and environmental advocate.
Further Reading, my sources:
(not Arkansas cave crayfish) https://www.smallincave.com/Cave%20Life%20Photos.html
[This is a blog of my opinions. I speak for myself. I am a one person team and if I have misinterpreted a fact or made an error please feel free to get in touch to correct me. I will make edits and updates to post. I would appreciate corrections to be polite. I will not engage in hate.]