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UAH: Small, rare crayfish thought extinct is rediscovered in Huntsville cave

A small, rare crayfish thought to be extinct for 30 years has been rediscovered in a cave in...
A small, rare crayfish thought to be extinct for 30 years has been rediscovered in a cave in Huntsville.(The University of Alabama in Huntsville)
Published: Jun. 1, 2022 at 10:22 AM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WBRC) - A small, rare crayfish thought to be extinct for 30 years has been rediscovered in a cave in Huntsville, according to a team led by an assistant professor at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).

Dr. Matthew L. Niemiller’s team said they found individuals of the Shelta Cave Crayfish, known scientifically as Orconectes sheltae, in 2019 and 2020 excursions into Shelta Cave – its only home.

Dr. Niemiller, an assistant professor of biological sciences at UAH, a part of the University of Alabama System, is co-author of a paper on the findings in the journal Subterranean Biology. Besides Dr. Niemiller, authors are UAH’s Katherine E. Dooley and K. Denise Kendall Niemiller, and Nathaniel Sturm of the University of Alabama.

The crayfish’s home is a 2,500-foot cave system that’s owned and managed by the National Speleological Society (NSS).

A small, rare crayfish thought to be extinct for 30 years has been rediscovered in a cave in...
A small, rare crayfish thought to be extinct for 30 years has been rediscovered in a cave in Huntsville.(The University of Alabama in Huntsville)

“The crayfish is only a couple of inches long with diminutive pincers that are called chelae,” Dr. Niemiller says. “Interestingly, the crayfish has been known to cave biologists since the early 1960s but was not formally described until 1997 by the late Dr. John Cooper and his wife Martha.”

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