A male Cherax pulcher. Photo by: Christian Lukhaup.
An independent researcher has described a spectacular red, white, and blue crayfish just in time for the fourth of July. The new species, named Cherax pulcher, was first discovered in Japanese pet shops by Christian Lukhaup before he finally tracked down the animal to creeks in remote West Papua, Indonesia.
“These creeks aren’t named on any map so they’re really not easy to find. It also didn’t help that the tribal locals were really protective,” Christian told the Mirror. “Once I’d found some crayfish inside a cave, I turned around and saw them standing there with bows and arrows pointing at me. I had to put them down. It seems, the tribes relate the crayfish with pregnancy, and they thought if I took them no women would have children again.”
Eventually, though, he was able to gather some specimens and describe the species in a recent paper published in ZooKeys in May. Lukhaup found that the males of the species were more brightly colored than the females and gave the species the name Pulcher, which means beautiful in Latin.
There are over 50 species of crayfish in the genus Cherax, all found in the Southern Hemisphere. Indonesia now sports 19 distinct species.
Lukhaup wrote int the paper that more “collecting trips are necessary” if scientists are to discover if the species is found in other creeks on Papua or is endemic to just one creek. Given that the species was first noticed in pet shops–and not the wild–Lukhaup fears it could face extinction rapidly.
“As Cherax pulcher is collected in large numbers for the global aquarium trade, as well as for food for the growing local population, the crayfish population will invariably be adversely impacted,” Lukhaup writes. “According to local collectors in the area and the city of Sorong,
the populations of the species have been decreasing in the last few years. Clearly, the continued collection of these crayfish for the trade is not a sustainable practice, and if the popularity of the species continues, a conservation management plan will have to be developed, including a captive breeding program.”
- Lukhaup, Christian. “Cherax (Astaconephrops) pulcher, a new species of freshwater crayfish (Crustacea, Decapoda, Parastacidae) from the Kepala Burung (Vogelkop) Peninsula, Irian Jaya (West Papua), Indonesia.” ZooKeys 502 (2015): 1.