Researchers have discovered two new species of burrowing crayfishes in southwestern Alabama and southeastern Mississippi: the Lonesome Gravedigger (Lacunicambarus mobilensis) and the Banded Mudbug (L. freudensteini). Their findings have been published in the journal Zootaxa.
"The compelling thing about new species is that they are a reminder of how much we still don't know about the natural world," says Mael Glon, a PhD candidate at Ohio State University and lead author of the paper. "You can literally find new species in your backyard in rural Mississippi or Alabama."
With more than 300 known species of crayfish (also known as crawfish or mudbugs), the southeastern United States is home to the most diverse crayfish community in the world.
This discovery of two new species while sampling for another rare crayfish species, the Rusty Gravedigger (L. miltus), highlights how little is known about the native ranges and life histories of many southeastern crayfishes.
Both new species are quite rare, even in areas with suitable habitat and an abundance of other burrowing crayfishes. Because of their limited ranges, both new species are considered Vulnerable (to extinction) by the criteria of the American Fisheries Society.
"Knowing what species are out there is the most basic first step toward understanding, managing, and conserving our native crayfishes," says Susie Adams, a USDA Forest Service aquatic ecologist based In Mississippi who coauthored the paper and worked closely with Glon.
Future research is necessary to refine each species' conservation status and life history, understand threats to their persistence, and implement specific conservation strategies.