Crayfish are invertebrates, meaning they lack a backbone. Instead of an internal skeleton, they have a hard outer shell (exoskeleton) that offers protection but restricts growth.

Humans have 46 chromosomes; crayfish have 200

As omnivores, crayfish feed on plants and virtually any dead animal, although they are known to catch their own dinner (primarily small fish) if given the chance. Important to the food chain, crayfish make a meal for fish, wading birds, frogs, turtles, salamanders, snakes, raccoons, mink and otter.

The Prairie Crayfish is a species that lives in the grassland and prairies that remain in Iowa. They dig deep burrows, over6 feet deep and leave a chimney of mud around the entrance. The burrows fill with water as most are dug below the water table. Prairie crayfish are bright red to reddish-brown with a high domed shell and pincers that have many bumps. Adults may be up to 3 inches long,are nocturnal and may live 3-4 years.

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Photo 1-Iowa DNR