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Naturwissenschaften. 2004 Jul;91(7):342-5. Epub 2004 May 26.

Factors inducing the intense burrowing activity of the red-swamp crayfish, Procambarus clarkii, an invasive species.

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  • 1Dipartimento di Biologia Animale e Genetica, Universit√† di Firenze, Via Romana 17, 50125 Florence, Italy.


The burrowing activity of the invasive red-swamp crayfish, Procambarus clarkii, was studied along a 25-m-long transect in an irrigation ditch system in Italy. Our objective was to understand the factors inducing this species' intense digging, which can result in bank collapse and consequently in severe damage to both agricultural fields and natural ecosystems. Burrow morphology and position, together with their occupancy by crayfish and digging, were recorded once every 6 h for 10 consecutive days. The majority of burrows were simple, although a few had a chimney and were constructed at a farther distance from the water surface than simple burrows. Burrow occupancy and digging, together with their plugged/unplugged status, were constant throughout a 24-h cycle and were not related to any abiotic parameter of the habitat. Crayfish occupied and dug a burrow for a relatively short time (6 h on average). Once abandoned, old burrows were rarely reoccupied and often collapsed, while crayfish excavated new ones. As a result, the overall number of burrows increased. This massive use of banks by P. clarkii seems to be related to soil composition and humidity, which favour crayfish digging but also cause the easy collapse of burrows.

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