Life History Observations, Environmental Associations, and Soil Preferences of the Piedmont Blue Burrower (Cambarus (Depressicambarus) harti) Hobbs.

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Southeastern Naturalist


Cambarus {Depressicambarus) harti (Piedmont Blue Burrower) is a stateendangered primary burrowing crayfish found in highly organic soils associated with seepage areas only in Meriwether County, GA. As is the case with many native burrowing crayfishes, virtually nothing is known about the biology and ecology of this species. To help fill this gap, the current study provides information on population demographics, environmental correlates of activity, burrowing behavior, and habitat fidelity of C. harti. Field surveys from the type locality revealed that crayfish could be found throughout the year, with a near 3:1 ratio of female to male adults captured, an ovigerous female found in June, and the highest number of small juveniles found in August. Adults were not found together in burrows; however, juveniles were often found sharing the burrows of females. Burrowing activity was generally higher in the summer than winter, and also increased with receding groundwater levels. Based on observations and experiments with artificial burrowing chambers (ABCs), the burrows of C. harti followed a predictable form and were often capped with at least one chimney of seemingly deliberate construction. Total burrow area and mean chimney pellet diameter increased with crayfish size. It appeared that C. harti will burrow in other soils, but displays a strong affinity to its type-locality soils, particularly below groundwater level. Observations from a communal ABC revealed that adults use burrows to brood young and will share burrows with other adults for a period of time, possibly during burrow construction and/or times of disturbance, but eventually tend to segregate to solitary occupancy. Taken together, these data offer insight into the biology and ecology of this highly endemic and elusive animal that will be useful for management and conservation efforts and provide much-needed scientific information about burrowing crayfishes in general.

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