Hunting for yabbies is not the job for crabby
By DAVID BANCROFT
FOR the past six years Jason Coughran has been wandering through the North Coast bush, looking under rocks, in waterholes and streams and in other 'unusual' locations looking for yabbies.
He found them.
In fact, as part of his Southern Cross University PhD studies, Mr Coughran found and identified four new species of freshwater crayfish. Formal descriptions of the four new yabbies have just been published in the prestigious journal Records of the Australian Museum.
"I started doing my honours course about six years ago and started looking for a crayfish that I couldn't find," he said.
"But then I got hooked and have been looking for them ever since."
Mr Coughran did all his research in an area from just south of Grafton to the Queensland border and from the coast to the ranges.
"I just started looking outside of the expected places and made unexpected finds," he said.
Mr Coughran said freshwater crayfish in this area could grow to 2kg.
"When my research began, I was looking at five species in the region, and none of them had previously been studied in the wild," he said.
"I knew it was going to be exciting to record the biology of these animals for the first time, but I didn't expect anything like what I found.
"There are something like 30 species of crayfish in NSW, but only one has been studied."
The four species described in Mr Coughran's paper are small, rainforest species, and together they form an identifiable group with the spiny crayfish genus, Euastacus.
"All four are of conservation concern due to their restricted distributions," Mr Coughran said.
He said, however, it was impossible to determine whether they were under real threat as there was no baseline scientific information. He has just released a field guide to Australian yabbies.