Identification: Faxonius luteus has a base color of light olive green, yellow, to orange-brown with two dark brown to black saddle marks on the sides and top of the carapace. The antennae are trimmed in red. The chelae (pinchers) are moderately heavy and broad with red tips. The species has small white patches on the side edge of the carapace at the junction with abdomen. The rostrum is characterized as excavated with straight margins that terminate in spines (Wetzel et al. 2004; Taylor et al. 2015; MDC Discover Nature 2017).
Faxonius luteus is often confused with another crayfish, Faxonius rusticus. Taylor et al. (2015) distinguished F. luteus from F. rusticus by the dark saddles on the sides and top of the carapace and in the form I (sexually mature) males having weakly developed first swimmeret (gonopods). Wetzel et al. (2004) also pointed out that the mandibles of F. luteus have a crenate incisor margin versus the blade-like margin of F. rusticus.
† Populations may not be currently present.
Ecology: Faxonius luteus has been described as being active, agile and a strong swimmer that is a habitat generalist, and can be found in clear riffles, runs, pools, backwaters, and in vegetation (DiStefano et al. 2003; MDC Discover Nature 2017). This species inhabits a variety of stream sizes as long as there is permanent flow and rocky or gravelly substrates where it can excavate cavities (Pflieger 1996; MDC Discover Nature 2017). Rabeni (1985) found in southcentral Missouri streams that this species often occupied swifter moving water (>60cm/sec) where few smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu) or rock bass (Ambloplites rupestris) foraged. It is also often associated with beds of water willow (Justica spp.) (Pflieger 1996).
Females showed signs of reproductive activity in October and by December a majority with carapace lengths over 15 mm showed signs of being reproductively active (Muck et al. 2002). As with other crayfish, after the eggs hatch the female continues to carry the young around as they grasp the swimmerets on the underside of her abdomen (MDC Discover Nature 2017).
Impact of Introduction: Faxonius luteus can dominate a crayfish community (Muck et al. 2002; DiStefano et al. 2003) often reaching high densities over 50 individuals/m2 in some habitats (Muck 1996). This species can be the dominant consumer of benthic invertebrates, detritus, and algae and may strongly influence lower trophic levels, organic matter processing, and energy flow in this system (Whitledge and Rabeni 1997).
Although this species may be found in sympatry with at least 10 other Faxonius species, it is often the most abundant (Muck et al. 2002).
References: (click for full references)
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 37(5):615-653. https://doi.org/10.1093/jcbiol/rux070.
DiStefano, R.J., Decoske, J.J., Vangilder, T.M., and L.S. Barnes. 2003. Macrohabitat partitioning among three crayfish species in two Missouri streams, USA. Crustaceana 76(3):343-362.
DiStefano, R. J., E.M. Imhoff, D.A. Swedberg, and T.C. Boersig III. 2015. An analysis of suspected crayfish invasions in Missouri, USA: evidence for the prevalence of short-range translocations and support for expanded survey efforts. Management of Biological Invasions 6(4):395-411
Fetzner, J.W., Jr. 2005. The crayfish and lobster taxonomy browser: A global taxonomic resource for freshwater crayfish and their closest relatives. http://iz.carnegiemnh.org/crayfish/NewAstacidea/. Created on 10/14/2004. Accessed on 7/3/2017.
MDC Discover Nature. 2017. Missouri Department of Conservation. https://nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/belted-crayfish-big-river-crayfish (Accessed on 6/20/2017).
Muck, J. A. 1996. Life history of three crayfish from the Ozark National Scenic Riverway. Unpublished M.S. thesis. University of Missouri, Columbia, MO.
Muck, J. A., Rabeni, C. F., and R.J. DiStefano. 2002. Reproductive biology of the crayfish Orconectes luteus (Creaser) in a Missouri stream. The American midland naturalist 147(2):338-351.
Pflieger, W.L. 1996. The crayfishes of Missouri. Missouri Department of Conservation, Jefferson City, Missouri.
Poly, W.J., and J.E. Wetzel. 2003. Distribution and taxonomy of three species of Orconectes (Decapoda: Cambaridae) in Illinois, U.S.A. Journal of Crustacean Biology 23(2):380-390.
Rabeni, C. F. 1985. Resource partitioning by stream-dwelling crayfish: the influence of body size. American Midland Naturalist 113(1):20-29.
Taylor, C.A., G.A. Schuster, and D.B. Wylie. 2015. Field guide to crayfishes of the Midwest. Illinois Natural History Survey, Champaign, IL.
Wetzel, J.E., W.J. Poly, and J.W. Fetzner, Jr. 2004. Morphological and genetic comparisons of golden crayfish, Orconectes luteus, and rusty crayfish, O. rusticus, with range corrections in Iowa and Minnesota. Journal of Crustacean Biology 24(4):603-617.
Whitledge, G. W., and C.F. Rabeni. 1997. Energy sources and ecological role of crayfishes in an Ozark stream: insights from stable isotopes and gut analysis. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 54(11): 2555-2563.
Williams, A. B. 1954. Speciation and distribution of the crayfishes of the Ozark Plateaus and Ouachita Provinces. The University of Kansas Science Bulletin 36(2): 803-918.
This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.