Orconectes sheltae Cooper & Cooper, 1997

Shelta Cave crayfish



Taxonomy & Nomenclature



Conservation Status

Last record 1988

IUCN RedList status: Critically Endangered

The Shelta Cave Crayfish is critically endangered, possibly extinct (Schuster et. al. 2010), being known from only 17 specimens as well as a further 97 individuals which were recorded and then released over a 7 year period (1968 to 1975; see Cooper, 1975). No specimens have been recorded in the last two decades (Buhay & Crandall, 2008), and it is likely to be extinct given its very limited range of occupation >1km2.

The reasons for its decline, and presumed extinction, are believed to be a decline in the availablity of nutrients (in the form of guano) in the cave, as the result of Gray bats (Myotis grisescens) abandoning it. However, competition with the other two troglobitic species of crayfish in Shelta Cave (Oconectes australis australis and Cambarus jonesi) may also be partly to blame.



Shelta Cave, Alabama, USA






17 individuals were collected (and presumably preserved in institution collections) (Buhay & Crandall, 2008).






Original scientific description:

Cooper, J.E. and Cooper, M.R. (1997). New troglobitic crayfish of the genus Orconectes, subgenus Orconectes (DECAPODA: CAMBARIDAE), endemic to Shelta Cave, Huntsville, Alabama. Journal of Cave and Karst Studies 59(3): 119-127.


Other references:

Buhay, Jennifer E., and Crandall, Keith A. (2008). Taxonomic revision of cave crayfishes in the genus Orconectes, subgenus Orconectes (Decapoda: Cambaridae) along the Cumberland Plateau, including a description of a new species, Orconectes barri. Journal of Crustacean Biology 28(1): 57-67.

Cooper, J. E. (1975). Ecological and Behavioral Studies in Shelta Cave, Alabama, with Emphasis on Decapod Crustaceans. Ph.D. dissertation. University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky. 364 pp

Schuster, G.A., Taylor, C.A. & Cordeiro, J. (2010). Orconectes sheltae. In: IUCN 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.4. (https://www.iucnredlist.org). Downloaded on 07 June 2011.



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