Naturespeak A naturalist's view of the world

May 11, 2008

Mudbug on the Move

Filed under: Uncategorized — wykes @ 9:08 am

  You never know what an overnight spring rain will bring out.  “Things” come up out of the ground into the moist night air and are there in the morning for the curious to find. Worms are the most obvious of the rain flushed sort. What would a springy wet morning be without that wormy smell in the air?

  Morel mushrooms are the most desirable of such finds, but I have not been lucky enough to find any this year. A friend of mine recently gathered several hat-fulls of these delectable mushrooms and informed me that he got slightly sick by eating too many of them. “I have never had the opportunity to get overfull on morels,” I informed him and elaborated on the thought by mentioning that I would be more than happy to take these burdensome fungi off his hands next time. Of course, there may not be a next time this year. They say worms are good when fried up, but I do not anticipate getting stuffed on them any time soon.

  Another friend gave me the opportunity to pick up her post rain find. Her discovery could also be considered edible, but only in certain parts of the country. Edible or not, she didn’t want to touch it and knew that I would pick up just about anything – dead or alive. The thing was a mudbug, also known as a crayfish. This beast was completing a wet night stroll across a parking lot and was confronted with a formidable barrier in the form of a curb. I plucked it from the wet pavement and plunked it into a jar for later observation.

  It might seem odd that a crayfish would be out wandering on terra firma, but this particular voyager was a Burrowing Crayfish (see above). These crustaceans are capable of extended journeys into the upper world as long as they can return to the water on a regular basis. Rainy or moist nights beckon them out to feed on rotting vegetation, worms and other such delicacies and daylight prompts them to return to the sanctuary of their muddy water filled holes (see here). 

  In hand, crayfish look like miniature lobsters. Take a look at this view and you can see the claws (called chelicerae), body (carapace) and tail section (tail section). Burrowing Crayfish have fairly small claws when compared to others of their kind, but otherwise are typical in all regards.

  Their beady eyes are actually compound eyes much like those of an insect. The individual eye facets are sensitive to movement. Collectively they form an un-focused pixilated image of the world which means this poor guy was forced to look at a thousand fuzzy views of my face as I examined it. For a higher life form such an image would be nightmarish. Fortunately, crayfish are endowed with only simple nerve swellings for a brain, so they are unburdened with any emotion.

  An underside view (see here) reveals some of the hidden aspects of crayfish existence. There are five pairs of swimmerets under the tail section. This specimen was a female as evidenced by the fact that the first pair are not modified into sperm transfer “arms.” She will eventually carry her eggs within the protective envelope of these swimmerets should she be lucky enough to find a boy crayfish. All of the legs are attached to the main body under the carapace. You’ve probably noticed that the first several sets just behind the main claws end in a pair of tiny pincers while the rest are reserved for walking purposes.

  Before I put this wanderer back into her element, I want to point out one more thing. Take a good look at this underside view and you’ll notice those two pearl-like spots located just ahead of the multiple mouth parts. Structures such as these are firm proof that we are dealing with a creature that is very different from us. These things are called Green Glands Pores. They connect to internal green glands (really?) which function as kidneys.

  If you consider that these excretory pores are outlets for the liquid waste produced by the green glands, you’ll realize that the burrowing crayfish is a potty mouth. Yes, they pee out of an opening located right next to their mouth!  Aren’t you glad to know that?

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