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The Introduced Red Claw Crayfish in Jamaica
Published Date: April, 2005
University of the West Indies Mona.
The red claw crayfish,
Cherax quadricarinatus, has been a popular choice for
aquaculture since the late 1980s. Brood stock of this Australian
native was introduced in 1993 to farms in Jamaica.
The first known established specimen living in
the wild was collected from the Black River in 1999.
Plate 1. Cherax quadricarinatus
Characteristics of Cherax quadricarinatus
species grows to about 100 mm in carapace length. The carapace is
usually green-brown with paler spots and mottles; claws tend to be a
deeper green colour (Jones and Morgan, 1994).
prominent feature of this species is the red claw, which gives the
species its common name. The soft red patch on the outer margins of
the fixed finger of the claw is only seen in males, and becomes
increasingly prominent through successive moults. Females have
slimmer blue-green claws that never show any red colouration
2. Male red claw crayfish
Jones (1990) reported that
aside from the red colouration and larger size of the cheliped or
claw of the mature male, sexual differences in
are reasonably subtle. The only characteristic that can be used to
distinguish between the sexes in juveniles is the position of the
genital opening: at the base of the 3rd and 5th
pereiopods (walking legs) in females and males respectively (Shao
et al., 1996).
is native to the southern hemisphere: throughout the streams and
rivers of northern Australia (Jones and Morgan, 1994).
In Jamaica, they have become
established in two of the largest river systems in Jamaica: Black
River in the parish of St. Elizabeth, and Rio Cobre in St.
claws are very hardy and can tolerate a wide range of conditions,
including low water quality in moderately polluted rivers. They are
capable of dispersing further than native shrimp, and have been
reported to actively move during times of drought to locate
permanent bodies of water in their native ecosystem (Wingfield,
2000). This may have applications to its capacity disperse
to other rivers in Jamaica.
Several crayfish species have been introduced beyond their natural
ranges worldwide, either accidentally or intentionally for
aquaculture. Typically, these animals had adverse effects on the
existing crayfish fauna, including the elimination of native species
(Vorburger & Ribi, 1999). No crayfish are native to Jamaican rivers
and streams; however there are 14 indigenous freshwater shrimp
species (Hunte, 1978). Of this number, nine occur in the Black
River and Rio Cobre systems collectively. The impact of the
crayfish on the native crustacean fauna is being investigated.
indicate, contrary to reports that C. quadricarinatus does
not dig burrows in Australia (Wingfield, 2000), that individuals in
Jamaican rivers are generally found occupying burrows which they
construct in the banks of the rivers.
3. Crayfish burrows in river bank – Black
claws now contribute to the livelihoods of many fishermen and
vendors in St. Elizabeth, St. Catherine and Kingston; the crayfish
are purchased alongside native shrimp in large numbers in St.
Elizabeth, St. Catherine and Kingston. The quantity in which this
crayfish is caught and sold is an indication of its local
eFishBusiness - Forms and Guidelines
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Shelley, C.C. & M.C.Pearce eds., Proceedings of the seminar
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shelter between a native and an introduced crayfish in Europe.
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Ortiz-Corps, 2001. A review of recent
introductions of aquatic invertebrates in Puerto Rico and
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Wingfield, M.J., 2000. An overview of production techniques
practiced in the Australian crayfish farming industry (acquired
December 7, 2002).
Jones, D.S. & G.J. Morgan, 1994. A field
guide to crustaceans of Australian waters. Reed/ Western
Museum. 216 pp.
Shao, L., Wang,
X. & J. Zhu, 1996. Preliminary study on the morphological
features and behaviors of Cherax quadricarinatus. J.
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Institute of Jamaica.
University of the West Indies Mona.