GREENEVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – Two Tusculum University students recently came across a blue crayfish that could be a new species.
Breanna Mathes and Joe Calloway, two students at the university, were looking for frogs when they stumbled across the blue crayfish.
“At first, we didn’t know it was rare,” Mathes said. “We just thought it was something cool, and we wanted to share it with our crayfish expert, Carl. But then we got really excited that it could be something new.”
The picture of the blue crayfish was sent over to Carl Williams, a Wildlife Technician for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA).
“He (Williams) just so happened to notice that its exoskeleton was shaped just a little bit different than the rest of them,” Mathes said.
Susanne Monteleone, a biology professor at Tusculum University, said that blue crayfish are known to be found in the area, but not all of them are the same.
“The reality is that that there are differences that could be significant enough that we can call them a new species or a new sub-variety or something different from the ones that we currently know,” Monteleone said.
Williams is studying the crayfish to determine if it could be a new species.
“Carl molted, these guys into certain growth stages and that allowed him to determine molting stages, size of the organism,” Monteleone said. “He measured them with their pinchers to the overall size and weight of the organism, coloration at different molts, how long it took them to do all those things, very species-specific characteristics.”
It could take 2-3 years of observing and studying the crayfish before the TWRA and experts can determine if it is a new species.