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Buffalo National River Crustaceans

Crayfish (a.k.a. crawfish or crawdads) are an important link in the food chain between plants and vertebrates. Considered as omnivores, they break down dead plant material that is resistant to decomposition by gathering, shredding, and eating organic material within the river. Crayfish are a major component in the diets of large fish and other semi-aquatic and terrestrial predators such as snakes, turtles, wading birds, otters, mink, and raccoons; not to mention they are a food item for some humans. The number of crayfish species within the Buffalo River is unknown.

The Northern Crayfish (Oronectes virilis) is the only species known to reside within the Buffalo River, but the various colors and sizes of specimens that have been observed suggest that there are numerous species within the river yet to be identified and documented. To the north, the Ozarks of Missouri are known to have 18 species of crayfish. Eight of these species are only found in a few streams within the Springfield and Salem Plateaus, and 9 others have limited distributions. This suggests that localized speciation within the Ozark ecoregions is probable, and this may also be the case within the Buffalo River watershed. However, much more ecological sleuthing is needed in order to find what species of crayfish exist within the Buffalo River.

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