Species Profile- Bottlebrush Crayfish

Bottlebrush Crayfish

Barbicambarus cornutus

Adult bottlebrush crayfish from Russell Creek in Green, Co., Ky. Photo Credit R. Kessler.

Kentucky has about 50 native species of freshwater crayfishes and about half that number inhabit the Green River.  Perhaps one of the most unique and charismatic of these is the endemic bottlebrush crayfish.  Its name is derived from the very interesting tufted antennae that resemble bottlebrushes.  This crayfish genus is the only one known to exhibit this trait.  It is also among  the largest of all North American freshwater crayfishes with individuals being collecting in the  11-12-inch range .  Adults are overall olive-brown but possess striking red and blue markings upon closer inspection.  They especially like hanging out under slab boulders and cobble substrate but can often be seen on top of rocks in the late fall and winter.

The Little Barren River mill dam pictured above (Photo credit R. Kessler) is a good example of suitable habitat for adult bottlebrush crayfish- fast flows with cobble and boulder/rubble substrate.

Above: Bottlebrush on substrate in Little Barren River. Photo credit:  R. Kessler

Above: Female bottlebrush are  typically “in berry” (ova attached to swimmerets of abdomen) in April. This female bottlebrush was collected in late May/early June from Russell Creek.  She had numerous recently hatched young residing under her abdomen and attached to her swimmerets.  When separated from mother they quickly swim back to the safety of her abdomen.

See this iNaturalist.org species entry for more information on Barbicambarus cornutus: