Distribution, habitat associations, and conservation status updates for the pilose crayfish

Publication Type:

Journal Article


PeerJ, Volume 6, p.1-25 (2018)

Call Number:



boosted regression trees, ecological niche model, exotic species, Faxonius virilis, invasive species, Pacifastacus connectens, Pacifastacus gambelii, Pacifastacus leniusculus, pilose crayfish, species distribution modeling


Our study evaluates the distribution, habitat associations, and current conservation status of the Snake River pilose crayfish Pacifastacus connectens (Faxon, 1914) and pilose crayfish Pacifastacus gambelii (Girard, 1852), two little-studied and data-deficient species endemic to the western United States. We first developed a species distribution model (SDM) for the pilose crayfishes based on their historical occurrence records using boosted regression trees and freshwater GIS data layers. We then sampled 163 sites in the summers of 2016 and 2017 within the distribution of these crayfishes, including 50 where these species were observed historically. We next compared our field results to modeled predictions of suitable habitat from the SDM. Our SDM predicted 73 sites (45%) we sampled as suitable for the pilose crayfishes, with a moderate AUC value of 0.824. The pilose crayfishes were generally predicted to occur in larger streams and rivers with less extreme upstream temperature and precipitation seasonality. We found the pilose crayfishes at only 20 (12%) of the 163 total sites we sampled, 14 (20%) of the 73 sites predicted as suitable for them by our SDM, and 12 (24%) of 50 historical sites that we sampled. We found the invasive virile crayfish Faxonius virilis (Hagen, 1870) at 22 sites total and 12 (24%) historical sites for the pilose crayfishes, and we found the ‘‘native invader’’ signal crayfish Pacifastacus leniusculus (Dana, 1852) at 29 sites total and 6 (12%) historical sites for the pilose crayfishes. We subsequently used a single classification tree to identify factors associated with our high rate of false positives for contemporary pilose crayfish distributions relative to our SDM. This classification tree identified the presence of invasive crayfishes, impairment of the benthic community, and sampling method as some of the factors differentiating false positives relative to true positives for the pilose crayfishes. Our study identified the historical distribution and habitat associations for P. connectens and P. gambelii using an SDM and contrasted this prediction to results of contemporary field sampling. We found that the pilose crayfishes have seemingly experienced substantial range declines, attributable to apparent displacement by invasive crayfishes and impairment or change to stream communities and habitat. We recommend increased conservation and management attention to P. connectens and P. gambelii in response to these findings.


Electronic File: Zoology - Invertebrates

Suggested citation:
Egly and Larson (2018), Distribution, habitat associations, and conservation status updates for the pilose crayfish Pacifastacus gambelii (Girard, 1852) and Snake River pilose crayfish Pacifastacus connectens (Faxon, 1914) of the western United States. PeerJ 6:e5668; DOI 10.7717/peerj.5668