Faxonius kentuckiensis - (Rhoades, 1944)
Kentucky Crayfish
Synonym(s): Orconectes kentuckiensis Rhoades, 1944
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Orconectes kentuckiensis Rhoades, 1944 (TSN 97452)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.121294
Element Code: ICMAL11050
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Invertebrates - Crustaceans - Crayfishes
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Crustacea Malacostraca Decapoda Cambaridae Faxonius
Genus Size: D - Medium to large genus (21+ species)
Check this box to expand all report sections:
Concept Reference
Concept Reference: Hobbs, H.H., Jr. 1989. An illustrated checklist of the American crayfishes (Decapoda: Astacidae, Cambaridae, and Parastacidae). Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology 480:1-236.
Concept Reference Code: B89HOB01EHUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Orconectes kentuckiensis
Taxonomic Comments: Based on Crandall and De Grave (2017), the representatives of Orconectes form at least two distinct groups. The nominal group (the "cave Orconectes") form a monophyletic group that is more closely related to members of Cambarus, while the remaining "Orconectes" are more closely related to Barbicambarus, Creaserinus, and other species of Cambarus (Crandall and Fitzpatrick 1996, Fetzner 1996). As the type species of Orconectes, Orconectes inermis Cope, 1872, belongs to the cave-dwelling group, the genus is herein restricted to just those taxa. The surface-dwelling taxa now excluded from Orconectes sensu stricto are herein placed in the resurrected genus Faxonius Ortmann, 1905a, the oldest available name previously considered to be a synonym of Orconectes Cope, 1872.
Conservation Status

NatureServe Status

Global Status: G4
Global Status Last Reviewed: 01Jul2009
Global Status Last Changed: 25Jan2008
Rounded Global Status: G4 - Apparently Secure
Reasons: Restricted range; information is largely based on knowledge from Natural Heritage programs; estimated occurrences are up from between 6-20 to a few dozen; declining in Illinois, but stable/increasing in majority of range in Kentucky; threats not defined, but apparently not very threatened in the majority of range.
Nation: United States
National Status: N4 (25Jan2008)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Illinois (S2), Kentucky (S2?)

Other Statuses

IUCN Red List Category: LC - Least concern
American Fisheries Society Status: Currently Stable (01Aug2007)

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: 250-1000 square km (about 100-400 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: This species has a limited distribution in the lower Ohio River drainage of western Kentucky and southern Illinois (Hobbs, 1989).

Number of Occurrences: 81 - 300
Number of Occurrences Comments: Known from very few streams, all small effluents of the Ohio River near the Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana junction. In 1944 Rhoades mapped 14 collection sites in Kentucky. It is estimated that there are a few dozen extant occurrences in Kentucky and 0-5 extant occurrences in Illinois. In Kentucky, it occurs throughout the Tradewater River drainage and in smaller Ohio River tributaries in Crittenden and Livingston Cos.; and also occurs in the Livingston Creek and Little River drainages, both of which are tributaries of the lower Cumberland River (Taylor and Schuster, 2004). In Illinois it is restricted to three creeks in Hardin Co. (tributaries of the Ohio River) (Page, 1985) and is considered endangered (Burr et al., 2004).

Population Size: 1000 - 2500 individuals
Population Size Comments: Abundance is estimated here based on biologists comments and estimates of the number of occupied stream miles. Page (pers. comm. 1992) stated reasonably plentiful where it occurs and estimates more than 10,000 individuals rangewide. During a 1972-1975 survey of Big Creek, Illinois, the number of individuals collected at 15 stations ranged from 1-459 (Boyd and Page 1978). Currently estimated to be fewer than 50 miles of stream inhabited in Illinois (Glen Kruse pers. comm. 1998). However, the majority of the range occurs in Kentucky.

Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Unknown

Overall Threat Impact: Unknown
Overall Threat Impact Comments: Specific threat information is not available, but Glen Kruse (pers. comm. 1998) stated that threats include habitat alteration and degradation due to mining runoff, siltation, and stream channelization. The degree of threat varies from moderate in Illinois to not very threatened or unthreatened in Kentucky (Glen Kruse and Ron Cicirello, pers. comm. 1998).

Short-term Trend: Decline of 10-30%
Short-term Trend Comments: Specific population trend information is not available. However, Natural Heritage Programs feel that populations are declining in Illinois, but possibly stable across the majority of the range which occurs in Kentucky (Ron Cicirello and Glen Kruse, pers. comm. 1998). Although considered endangered in Illinois it is stable in Kentucky (Burr et al., 2004).

Long-term Trend: Unknown

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Not intrinsically vulnerable

Environmental Specificity: Unknown

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Inventory Needs: Determine population numbers, abundance, threats and extent of threats. Monitor populations throughout range to determine population trends.

Global Range: (250-1000 square km (about 100-400 square miles)) This species has a limited distribution in the lower Ohio River drainage of western Kentucky and southern Illinois (Hobbs, 1989).

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
Endemism: endemic to a single nation

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States IL, KY

Range Map
No map available.

U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
IL Hardin (17069)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
05 Lower Ohio-Bay (05140203)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
Basic Description: a crayfish
General Description: Rostrum acuminate, acarinate, margins converging and ending in spines; cervical spines prominent; areola moderately broad with no more than 3 punctations in narrowest part; chela strongly pubescent with tubercles of opposable margins of fingers obscured by setae; male with hooks on ischia of 3rd pereiopods; male first pleopod terminating in 2 elements both inclined caudodistally and constituting <25% of total length of pleopod, central projection lateromesially flattened (Hobbs, 1976). [LENGTH: to 40 TCL; to 85 TL] [WIDTH: to 20]
Diagnostic Characteristics: Male with hooks on 3rd pereiopods only; male firs pleopod as described above; chelae strongly pubescent with tubercles of opposable margins of fingers obscured by setae.
Reproduction Comments: Most individuals of this species do not live past 2 years in Big Creek. Sex ratios are 1:1 in the Big Creek population. Form I males are present from July until the spring molt in April and May. Females carrying eggs or young are present March, April, May and July (Page, 1985). Oviposition has not been observed in the wild, but an aquarium-held female deposited her eggs next to a large rock (Boyd and Page, 1978). Ovary weight with mature eggs is strongly correlated with size of the female. Mating apparently occurs in October and November. Females may have from 59-249 eggs in mature ovaries just prior to oviposition, and nearly as many abdominal eggs. First year crayfish become sexually mature beginning in August (females) and September (males). Only about 31% of first year males mature sexually (Boyd and Page, 1978).
Ecology Comments: Green sunfish (LEPOMIS CYANELLUS) are known to prey on this crayfish (found in 1 of 20 stomachs examined), and stripetail darters (ETHEOSTOMA SQUAMICEPS) has been implicated as predators (Boyd and Page, 1978).

This crayfish does not burrow, but may bury itself in loose gravel 2-4 cm below the surface of a dry stream bed. It uses large rocks for cover and often sits in cavities beneath rocks (Boyd and Page, 1978).

Habitat Type: Freshwater
Non-Migrant: N
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Riverine Habitat(s): CREEK, Pool
Special Habitat Factors: Benthic
Habitat Comments: Preferred habitat is in rocky pools in stretches of headwater streams with a preponderance of slab or gravel pool habitat, but muddy streams under brush are also inhabited by smaller numbers. This is the habitat of the type locality (Boyd and Page, 1978). Page (1992) commented that muddy streams are poor habitat for this species.
Adult Food Habits: Detritivore
Immature Food Habits: Detritivore
Food Comments: Food is a mixture of plant material and arthropods (50:50 among identifiable stomach contents in Big Creek, Illinois population). Identifiable crustacean and insect parts included pieces of amphipods, isopods, crayfish and immature caddisflies and midges (Boyd and Page, 1978).
Phenology Comments: No data; inference is that leaves lair mostly at night.
Economic Attributes
Economic Comments: No known economic value.
Management Summary
Stewardship Overview: This crayfish is limited to a handful of small streams in west Kentucky and southern Illinois. It is most common in rocky headwater streams with slab or gravel pool habitat, but is also found under brush in mud-bottomed streams. Page (1992) considers the latter to be poor habitat. It is locally common to rare, and not currently subject to serious threats. Stewardship needs include monitoring known populations every few years, and maintaining water quality in the streams it inhabits.
Species Impacts: None known.
Preserve Selection & Design Considerations: Preserve managers should provide for buffers to maintain water quality and water source.
Management Requirements: The water quality of streams should be maintained.
Monitoring Requirements: Because there are so few occurrences, known populations should be monitored regularly (at least every three or four years) to keep track of population trends.
Management Research Needs: None identified.
Population/Occurrence Delineation
Group Name: Crayfishes

Use Class: Not applicable
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Occurrences are based on some evidence of historical or current presence of single or multiple specimens, including live specimens or recently dead shells (i.e., soft tissue still attached without signs of external weathering or staining), at a given location with potentially recurring existence. Evidence is derived from reliable published observation or collection data; unpublished, though documented (i.e. government or agency reports, web sites, etc.) observation or collection data; or museum specimen information.
Separation Barriers: Separation barriers are based on hydrological discontinuity. Additional physical barriers, particularly for secondary and tertiary burrowers, include presence of upland habitat between water connections of a distance greater than 30 m. Migration of primary burrowers is generally not hindered by presence of upland habitat unless conditions are very xeric (dry and desert-like) (Smith, 2001).
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 2 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 2 km
Alternate Separation Procedure: Freshwater cave (troglobitic) species may occur from near entrances to very deep in cave systems. For cave species, each cave where an observation or collection was recorded (see Minimum EO Criteria, above) constitutes an element occurrence regardless of separation distance unless caves are part of a single hydrological system (see below). Occurrences are additionally separated by underground physical barriers to movement. Multiple caves within a single hydrological cave system are considered to be a single element occurrence when they are less than one km apart. Multiple caves within a single hydrological cave system are considered separate element occurrences when hydrological connections have not been determined or when separated by a distance of at least one km.
Separation Justification: Habitat for these creatures is primarily separated according to each species' burrowing ability. All crayfish are able to burrow to some extent and this ability will help determine the range of habitats in which a species can be found. Burrowing in the Astacidae is limited to streambed and bank excavation (Hobbs, 1988). The Cambaridae, as a whole are much more adept at burrowing than the Astacidae. As a result, they possess a greater habitat range than the Astacidae including dry water bodies (Hogger, 1988).

The burrowers can be classified into three categories: primary burrowers, secondary burrowers, and tertiary burrowers. Primary burrowers tend to remain in their burrows continuously and live in areas without permanent water except during breeding when they must migrate to a nearby water source (Hogger, 1988). The prairies of eastern and central Mississippi and western Alabama are an example of primary burrower habitat (Hogger, 1988). Secondary burrowers remain in burrows during dry periods but emerge when habitats are inundated seasonally. Such habitat includes lentic systems flooded periodically but dry in summer (Huner and Romaire, 1979) and permanent and temporary ponds and swamps in the southern United States. Tertiary burrowers do not burrow except during infrequent drought conditions and/or during breeding season. Both flowing and standing water can be tertiary burrower habitat.

Because primary burrowers, and to a lesser extent secondary burrowers, can occupy xeric habitats, separation barriers for such species do not include presence of upland habitat except in extremely dry conditions. Survival during dry periods, particularly for secondary burrowers, is dependent upon construction of a burrow regardless of season. Several different types have been described (Smith, 2001) depending on species, soil, and depth of water table.

Published information about movement in relation to migration distance is lacking but Cooper (1998, personal communication) and Fitzpatrick (1998, personal communication) both recommend a separation distance of one km between element occurrences. Dispersal patterns are best known for invasive species which likely have the greatest dispersal capability, therefore, separation distances have been determined for all crayfish based on these studies. Guan and Wiles (1997) provided evidence from the River Great Ouse in the United Kingdom that the range of movement for the majority of the invasive Pacifastacus leniusculus was within 190 m. Bubb et al. (2004) also studied P. leniusculus in England using radio-tagging and found median maximal upstream and downstream movement distances were 13.5 m (range 0-283 m) and 15 m (range 0-417 m), respectively. Barbaresi et al. (2004) found that ranging speed in the invasive crayfish Procambarus clarkii (Girard) to be slow (0.3 to 76.5 m/day) with the widest ranging individual traveling 304 m. Lewis and Horton (1996) found that 21% of tagged Pacifastacus leniusculus in an Oregon harvest pond moved >1000 m in one year while the majority moved <500 m. As such minimum separation distance (unsuitable and suitable) has been set at the NatureServe standard minimum of two km.

Exposed pools and streams in caves represent "karst windows" into more extensive underground streams. No information on the distance cave crayfish can disperse in underground streams is yet available.

Date: 18Oct2004
Author: Cordeiro, J.
Notes: Primary burrowers include the following taxa: Cambarus (Cambarus) carolinus, C. (C.) diogenes diogenes, C. (Depressicambarus) catagius, C. (D.) cymatilis, C. (D.) deweesae, C. (D.) harti, C. (D.) reflexus, C. (D.) pyronotus, C. (D.) striatus, C. (D.) strigosus, C. (D.) truncatus, C. (Glareocola), C. (Jugicambarus) batchi, C. (J.) carolinus, C. (J.) causeyi, C. (J.) dubius, C. (J.) gentryi, C. (J.) monongalensis, C. (J.) nodosus, C. (Lacunicambarus), C. (Tubericambarus), Distocambarus, Fallicambarus, Procambarus (Acucauda), P. (Distocambarus), P. (Girardiella) barbiger, P. (G.) cometes, P. (G.) connus, P. (G.) curdi, P. (G.) gracilis, P. (G.) hagenianus hagenianus, P. (G.) hagenianus vesticeps, P. (G.) liberorum, P. (G.) pogum, P. (Hagenides) [except P. pygmaeus]
Secondary burrowers include the following taxa: Cambarus (Cambarus) ortmanni, C. (Depressicambarus) latimanus, C. (D.) reduncus, Hobbseus, Procambarus (Cambarus) clarkii, P. (Girardiella) kensleyi, P. (G.) reimeri, P. (G.) simulans, P. (G.) steigmani, P. (G.) tulanei, P. (Hagenides) pygmaeus, P. (Leconticambarus) [excepting P. alleni and P. milleri], P. (Ortmannicus) [excepting the cave dwelling species], P. (Tenuicambarus)
Tertiary burrowers include the following taxa: Barbicambarus, Bouchardina, Cambarus (Cambarus) angularis, C. (C.) bartonii carinirostris, C. (C.) bartonii cavatus, C. (C.) howardi, C. (C.) sciotensis, C. (Depressicambarus) englishi, C. (D.) graysoni, C. (D.) halli, C. (D.) obstipus, C. (D.) sphenoides, C. (Erebicambarus) ornatus, C. (E.) rusticiformis, C. (Exilicambarus) cracens, C. (Hiaticambarus), C. (Jugicambarus) asperimanus, C. (J.) bouchardi, C. (J.) crinipes, C. (J.) distans, C. (J.) friaufi, C. (J.) obeyensis, C. (J.) parvoculus, C. (J.) unestami, C. (Puncticambarus) [excepting the cave dwelling species], C. (Veticambarus), Cambarellus, Faxonella, Orconectes [excepting the cave dwelling species], Pacifastacus, Procambarus (Capillicambarus), P. (Girardiella) ceruleus, P.

Population/Occurrence Viability
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 01Jul2009
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Cordeiro, J. (2009); Fitzpatrick, J.F., Jr.; Revised by M. K. Clausen (1998)
Management Information Edition Date: 28Sep1992
Management Information Edition Author: Soule, Judith D.
Management Information Acknowledgments: Thanks to Heritage program personnel who responded to requests for information: Illinois - Jean Karnes; Kentucky - R. R. Cicerello. Dr. Lawrence Page, Illinois Natural History Survey supplied references and information for this document. Dr. Brooks Burr, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale also provided information.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 08Jul2009
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Cordeiro, J. (2009); FITZPATRICK, J.F.; SOULE, J. D. (1992)

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

  • Boyd, J. A. and L. M. Page. 1978. The life history of the crayfish Orconectes kentuckiensis in Big Creek, Illinois. American Midland Naturalist 90:398-414.

  • Boyd, J.A. and L.M. Page. 1978. The life history of the crayfish ORCONECTES KENTUCKIENSIS in Big Creek, Illinois. Amer. Midl. Nat. 90:398-414.

  • Brown, P.L. 1955. The biology of the crayfishes of central and southeastern Illinois. Ph.D. thesis, Univ. Ill., Urbana-Champaign, IL. 158pp.

  • Burr, B.M., J.T. Spiorski, M.R. Thomas, K.S. Cummings, and C.A. Taylor. 2004. Fishes, mussels, crayfish, and aquatic habitats of the Hoosier-Shawnee Ecological Assessment Area. Pages 109-171 in General Technical Report NC-244, St. Paul, Minnesota: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, North Central Research Station. 267 pp.

  • Crandall, K. A., and S. De Grave. 2017. An updated classification of the freshwater crayfishes (Decapoda: Astacidea) of the world, with a complete species list. Journal of Crustacean Biology (2017):1-39.

  • Hobbs, H.H., Jr. 1989. An illustrated checklist of the American crayfishes (Decapoda: Astacidae, Cambaridae, and Parastacidae). Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology 480:1-236.

  • Hobbs, Horton. H. Jr. 1989. An Illustrated Checklist of the American crayfishes (Decapoda: Astacidae, Cambaridae & Parastacidae). Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology 480. Smithsonian Institute Press, Washington, D. C. 236 pp.

  • Hobbs, Jr., H. H. 1976a. Crayfishes (Astacidae) of North and Middle America. Biological Methods Branch, Environmental Protection Agency, Cincinnati, Ohio. 173 pp.

  • Illinois Natural History Survey Crustacea Collection. Larry Page, 607 E. Peabody Dr., Champaign, IL. 61820.

  • McLaughlin, P.A., D.K. Camp, M.V. Angel, E.L. Bousfield, P. Brunel, R.C. Brusca, D. Cadien, A.C. Cohen, K. Conlan, L.G. Eldredge, D.L. Felder, J.W. Goy, T. Haney, B. Hann, R.W. Heard, E.A. Hendrycks, H.H. Hobbs III, J.R. Holsinger, B. Kensley, D.R. Laubitz, S.E. LeCroy, R. Lemaitre, R.F. Maddocks, J.W. Martin, P. Mikkelsen, E. Nelson, W.A. Newman, R.M. Overstreet, W.J. Poly, W.W. Price, J.W. Reid, A. Robertson, D.C. Rogers, A. Ross, M. Schotte, F. Schram, C. Shih, L. Watling, G.D.F. Wilson, and D.D. Turgeon. 2005. Common and scientific names of aquatic invertebrates from the United States and Canada: Crustaceans. American Fisheries Society Special Publication 31: 545 pp.

  • Page, L. M. 1985. The crayfishes and shrimps (Decapoda) of Illinois. Illinois Natural History Survey Bulletin 33(4): 335-448.

  • Page, L.M. 1985. The crayfishes and shrimps (Decapoda) of Illinois. Ill. Nat. Hist. Surv. Bull., 33(4):335-448.

  • Rhoades, R. 1944. The crayfishes of Kentucky, with notes on variation, distribution and descriptions of new species and subspecies. The American Midland Naturalist 31(1):111-149.

  • Rhodes, R. 1944. The crayfishes of Kentucky, with notes on variation, distribution, and description of new species and subspecies. Amer. Midl. Nat. 31:111-149.

  • Taylor, C.A. and G.A. Schuster. 2004. The Crayfishes of Kentucky. Illinois Natural History Survey Special Publication, 28: viii + 210 pp.

  • Taylor, C.A., G.A. Schuster, J.E. Cooper, R.J. DiStefano, A.G. Eversole, P. Hamr, H.H. Hobbs III, H.W. Robison, C.E. Skelton, and R.F. Thoma. 2007. A reassessment of the conservation status of crayfishes of the United States and Canada after 10+ years of increased awareness. Fisheries 32(8):371-389.

  • Taylor, C.A., M.L. Warren, Jr., J.F. Fitzpatrick, Jr., H.H. Hobbs III, R.F. Jezerinac, W.L. Pfleiger, and H.W. Robison. 1996. Conservation status of crayfishes of the United States and Canada. Fisheries 21(4):25-38.

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