Louisville Courier Journal
A biologist with the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources recently discovered a new species of crayfish, and now the department is looking for someone to name it.
Kentucky Wild, a sponsorship program within KDFWR, is offering the chance for a sponsor to name the newly discovered species. All funds will go toward supporting wildlife facing threats in the state.
Zack Couch, at-risk species biologist for the state, discovered the species after doing research to see if a species called the Louisville Crayfish needed to be placed on the federal endangered species list. During the research, he learned what was believed to be one species of crayfish was actually two.
"You always have the naysayers out there, ‘Oh, that’s just another crawdad, what's it matter,'" Couch said. "Well, look back at your third-grade science book. ... Crayfish are a good example in the aquatic community of a species that is pretty tuned in to its environment."
The small, lobster-like creatures are an important part of the food chain; as they consume dead and decaying plants and animals, they provide food for smaller aquatic animals and clean the water.
When the research began, the native species Couch had been observing was the only crayfish found in the area. In recent years, however, surveys have found new, invasive species in the watersheds.
The invasive species are usually a result of fishermen releasing bait into water supplies, which can disrupt habitats, Couch said. They often outcompete the native species for food sources or bring in diseases.
"The new species, not being in tune with this environment, will completely wipe out all of the water vegetation and remove all the habitat," he said. "So then you don't have your sport fish anymore. Now you have where the public outcry comes in."
The unnamed crayfish will be on display this weekend at the Louisville Boat, RV & Sportshow. Couch said he's using the opportunity to educate Kentuckians about an important group of organisms most people don't think about.
Kentucky has one of the highest ranges in crayfish species in the world, with more than 60 accounted for, Couch said.
"It's a way of getting people to understand we have a lot more for this state to offer than the largemouth bass, white-tailed deer," he said. "Global diversity-wise, we have more species of crayfish than a lot of countries and continents have."
For information on how to submit a bid to name the species, go to fw.ky.gov/kywild.