Seasonal context of Bristly Cave Crayfish Cambarus setosus habitat use and life history

Journal of Cave and Karst Studies(2022)

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Cave crayfishes are important members of groundwater communities, but many cave crayfishes are threatened or endangered. Unfortunately, we lack basic life history and ecological data that are needed for developing conservation plans for most cave crayfishes, especially the role of seasonal and annual fluctuations in structuring populations. Therefore, we determined the seasonal life history and habitat use of Cambarus setosus in Smallin Civil War Cave, Christian County, Missouri, United States. We conducted visual crayfish surveys over a 400 m section of the cave from 2006 to 2019. We used multinomial logit, multiple linear regression, and logistic regression models to estimate crayfish substrate, water depth, and water velocity use, respectively. All models included sex, carapace length, season, distance into the cave, and interactions between all variables and sex as predictor terms. We also used t-tests to assess morphometric differences between male and female crayfish. Six mark-recapture events (2010 to 2019) were used to estimate population sizes using a nil-recapture model. We attempted to age eight individuals using gastric mill bands, but annual bands were not discernable. We found reproductively active males during all seasons. We captured one ovigerous female during the spring, though ovigerous females were observed during show cave tours during spring, summer, and autumn. Male C. setosus were more likely to use homogenous and heterogeneous rock substrates and shallower and calmer water when compared to females; however, these relationships varied based on distance into the cave and season. Females sampled were significantly larger than males, and males regenerated chelae more often. Minimum population size estimates ranged from 9 to 159 individuals and indicated the population was relatively stable. Our data provide both a baseline population estimate for comparison with future studies and valuable trait information that is often lacking but useful for developing conservation efforts.
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