Friday, 11 April 2014

Adorably Tiny Crayfish Discovered (and It's a Cannibal)

By Becky Oskin, Senior Writer | April 09, 2014 03:08pm ET

A new species of crayfish discovered in southeast Australia's coastal lakes and swamps is one of the world's smallest crayfish species, researchers report.

The tiny, blue-black crustacean resembles its larger cousins that end up in cooking pots, such as lobsters and crawdads. But this species, which locals call a lake yabby, measures only 0.5 to 0.7 inches (12 to 18 millimeters) long. The biggest one found was just 0.8 inches (21 mm) long, and weighed 0.2 ounces (7 grams).

Despite its small size, the yabby is a powerful burrower, riddling its swampy habitat with burrows up to 3 feet (1 meter) deep. The burrows reach down to the shallow water table, and help the crayfish survive dry stretches — Australia's coastal swamps regularly drain and dry up, then flood with up to 5 feet (1.5 m) of water. Thick grasses and reeds in the swamps and lakes provide protection for the petite crayfish, which is prey for eels, birds, fish, lizards and turtles.

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