Crayfish (a.k.a. crawfish or crawdads) are an important link in the food chain between plants and vertebrates. Considered as omnivores, they break down dead plant material that are resistant to decomposition by gathering, shredding, and eating organic material within the river. Crayfish provide a major component in the diet of the larger predator fish and other semi-aquatic and terrestrial predators such as: snakes, turtles, wading birds, otters, mink, and raccoons; not to mention that they are a precious food items for some humans. The number of Crayfish within the Buffalo River is unknown. The Northern Crayfish (Oronectes virilis) is the only species known to reside within the Buffalo River, but the various colors and sizes of specimens that have been observed suggest that there are numerous species within the river yet to be identified and documented.
To the north, the Ozarks of Missouri are known to have 18 species. Eight of these species are only found in a few streams within the Springfield and Salem Plateaus, and 9 others have limited distributions. This suggests that localized speciation within the Ozark ecoregions is probable, and this may also be the case within the Buffalo River watershed. However, much more ecological sleuthing is needed in order to find just what the current status is of the species list for the river.
Did You Know?
Did you know that there are over 100 miles of maintained trails within Buffalo National River? Hiking is a very popular activity at all times, but especially in the cooler months from November to March.