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Mudbugs: Digging for burrowing crayfish

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The burrowing sickle crayfish is not easy to catch. First, you need to find a hint of them: a little mudball chimney hidden in the grass. Then you need to dig deep. Then you have to catch it without it slipping away.

North Carolina-based crustacean expert Dr. Bronwyn Williams is an expert at this process and it’s still super challenging.

In this Ant Lab video, created by Dr. Adrian Smith, Williams goes out on a field collection trip to find a burrowing crayfish, also called crawdaddies, mudbugs, or écrivesse.

mud chimney
Dr. Bronwyn Williams finds a mudbug
She then shares a behind-the-scenes look at the museum lab where she curates a huge crayfish collection that includes Lacunicambarus dalyae, the jewel mudbug, and Cambarus franklini, the South Mountains crayfish.

north mountains crayfish holotype
Williams also explains why she has become a taxonomic expert and a steward of these specimens at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences:

“I’m interested in crayfish for the sake of crayfish but also all of the other organisms that basically live on the crayfish.

“I study a group of worms that are closely related to leeches and a group of ostracods or seed shrimp that are obligate inhabitants of crayfishes. Different species are actually sort of found on different parts of the crayfish. Sometimes you’ll find them in the gill chamber, sometimes they’ll be between the bases of the walking legs or on the claws. And sometimes they’ll be very visible you’ll have one that’s right on the rostrum or that nose-like projection.

“My goal with my research with this work is to ensure that the entirety of the biodiversity of crayfishes in this state is adequately conserved. There are 48 name species in North Carolina.”

Dr. Bronwyn Williams
Explore crustaceans and museum specimens on TKSST:
A molting blue crayfish
• Roly Polies Came From the Sea to Conquer the Earth
Planet-changing ‘invisible’ microbes on the deep sea floor
• The Field Museum’s Amazing Egg Collection
• Skull of the Olinguito – AMNH: Shelf Life
Why are museum collections so important? Sir David Attenborough explains

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