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W.Va. researcher discovers new crawfish species

January 3, 2014
Associated Press

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A West Virginia researcher has discovered a new crawfish species and named it after one of the families in the legendary Hatfield-McCoy feud.

Zac Loughman chose the scientific name Cambarus hatfieldi for the new species, according to media reports. It also will be known as the Tug Valley crawfish.

Loughman, a West Liberty State University biologist, said the reddish-orange crustacean is common on Mate Creek near Red Jacket, which is in the heart of Hatfield-McCoy country. It's the third new crawfish species Loughman has discovered.

The latest discovery became official last month when the academic journal Zootaxa published a paper by Loughman and four colleagues describing and naming the new species.

Loughman documented the discovery in a scientific paper co-authored by West Virginia University biologist Stuart Welsh, Loughman's collaborator in an ongoing Division of Natural Resources-sponsored assessment of the state's crawfish; and Thomas Simon, a senior research scientist at Indiana State University.

Other biologists had found the crawfish before, Loughman said, but didn't realize it was a unique. He said it resembles Cambarus robustus, which is also found in the Greenbrier watershed.

"In fact, the first guy to ever do work on crawfish in West Virginia, a Harvard scientist named Walter Faxon, talked very briefly about it in a paper published back around 1900," Loughman said. "He said the Cambarus robustus specimens he collected in the area around Durbin were slightly different from other specimens he'd found."

Loughman said the distinction almost escaped his eye.

"When I grabbed one for the first time, I thought, 'Wait a minute.' I couldn't tell exactly what was different about it, but I knew something was different," he said.

He confirmed his find back at his lab.

"The claw on the new crawfish was much more elongated than a robustus claw," Loughman said. "The new animal was much more streamlined, skinnier at all stages of life than robustus."

Loughman's research finally led him to the realization he'd identified a completely new species.

The new species averages 3 to 3 1/2 inches from the tip of its tail to the tip of its nose, and 5 to 6 inches from the tip of its tail to the tips of its claws.

Loughman and his West Liberty biology students then set about determining the extent of its range. They spread out through the Greenbrier Valley, taking samples.

Twenty-three crawfish species live within West Virginia's borders. The new species is abundant through its range, but Loughman said that the range isn't very large.

"Because of the limited range, it was suggested that the species be considered 'threatened' within the state," he said. "The DNR hasn't yet decided whether to put it on the protected list. "

If that determination is made, the department will make the recommendation to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Loughman said.



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