Panama City Crayfish

The Panama City crayfish (Procambarus econfinae) (PCC) is a small freshwater crustacean growing to about two inches in length (body length minus claws). The dorsal side of this crayfish consist of a dark brown background color with a lighter brown dorsal stripe running the entire length of the animal. The sides of the crayfish are a light brown with dark brown spots. The size, claw shape, and leg arrangement identify the Panama City Crayfish from other crayfish sharing the same geographic range. This crayfish is currently considered a Species of Special Concern (SSC) by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). In January 2018, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced a 12-month finding on a petition to list the PCC as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

 Photo Credit: Lisa Keppner

Photo Credit: Lisa Keppner

Current Range

PCC can be found in a small portion of Bay County within northwest Florida. The current range of PCC is very small, covering approximately 10,000 acres of habitat, 90% of which is privately owned.  As the name states, PCC is located in Panama City, FL along with sections of nearby town Lynn Haven. The historical habitat of the PCC is wet pine flatwoods and wet prairie, but the majority of current populations exist in human-altered settings such as planted pine plantations, roadside ditches, and utility rights-of-way.

Habitat

Common characteristics of sites where PCC can be found include little to no overstory vegetation, abundant grass or herbaceous groundcover, and subject to temporary flooding during rainy seasons. This crayfish can be found in standing water within wet prairies and flatwoods during the rainy season, or in constructed burrows during the dry season. These burrows are simple downward passages from one to three feet deep, depending on the depth of the water table. Burrows will normally go straight down, and the entrances are marked with soil chimneys made from the excavated sediment. These burrows keep the crayfish hydrated during the driest parts of the season, and safe from natural fire occurrences.

 Panama City Crayfish Burrow in a maintained powerline.

Panama City Crayfish Burrow in a maintained powerline.

Population Status

The population status of the PCC is unknown and estimates of abundance for the PCC are lacking. Although some current surveys include a coarse assessment of dipnetted crayfish (e.g., <10, 10-20, >20 individuals captured), methods to accurately determine PCC densities and assess population status (including age structure and sex ratios) are not yet available. This information is necessary to determine a minimum viable population size and develop translocation guidelines. Thus, development of revised population survey methodology is a priority action.
 

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Threats

Major threats to the species include habitat loss due to development, degradation from point source pollution, and continued habitat fragmentation. There is also documented direct mortality from human activities such as collecting crayfish for fishing bait, as well as mud bogging, or taking off road vehicles throughout the wet habitat. Recent and ongoing conservation efforts include rangewide surveys, and habitat restoration on multiple conservation easements.

 FWC and USFWS staff sampling for Panama City Crayfish.

FWC and USFWS staff sampling for Panama City Crayfish.

Authored by Jennifer Manis