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The word crayfish or crawfish can mean:-

  • Freshwater crayfish, described on this page.
Scientific classification
Superfamily:Astacoidea and
  • Astacoidea:
  • Parastacoidea:

Crayfish, sometimes called crawfish, crawdads, mudbugs, yabbies, or spoondogs, are freshwater crustaceans (decapoda) resembling small lobsters, to which they are closely related. They are found in bodies of fresh water that do not freeze to the bottom, which are not polluted, and which have shelter against predators. Some crayfish have been found living as much as 3 m (10 feet) underground.

Geographical distribution

A Swedish lake crayfish
A Swedish lake crayfish

There are three families of crayfish, two in the northern hemisphere and one in the southern hemisphere. The southern-hemisphere (Gondwana-distributed) family Parastacidae lives in South America, southern Africa, Madagascar and Australasia. Many Australian crayfish are of the genus Cherax; and include the marron (Cherax tenuimanus), red-claw crayfish (Cherax quadricarinatus), yabby (Cherax destructor) and western yabby (Cherax preissii). The world's largest crayfish, Astacopsis gouldi, is found in the rivers of northern Tasmania. It can reach a weight of 4 kg.

The family Astacidae contains the native European crayfish, as well as those in western North America, such as Pacifastacus. The third family, Cambaridae, contains crayfish in east Asia and eastern North America, such as Cambarus, and zarigani (Cambaroides japonicus), a crayfish indigenous to Japanese rivers and ponds.

Crayfish as a dish

Crayfish are eaten in Europe, but they are perhaps most popular in Louisiana, where the standard culinary term is crawfish. They are also served in various Cajun dishes in restaurants around the United States. They are usually prepared like lobster, except many more are put into each pot to boil. For use as a main dish, they are often supplemented by items such as potatoes, sausage, corn, onions and garlic bulbs cooked in the same boil, which is heavily spiced with cayenne pepper and other spices. The crawfish may also be fried or blackened. There are also specific preparations for crawfish in cajun and creole food, the best-known of which are crawfish étouffée, crawfish pie, and crawfish beignets.

Boiled Crayfish
Boiled Crayfish

Crayfish is a popular dish in Sweden and Finland, and is by tradition primarily consumed during the fishing season in August. The boil is typically flavored with salt, sugar, and dill. The catch of domestic fresh water crayfish, and even of an implanted American species is very limited and to satisfy demand the majority of what is consumed has to be imported. Sales depended on imports from Turkey for several decades, but after a decline in supply China and the United States are today the biggest sources of import. On the western coast of Sweden, many tend to prefer the larger salt water crayfish, which is caught in the North Sea.

See also: Swedish cuisine.

External Links


  • Gilbertson, Lance; Zoology Lab Manual; McGraw Hill Companies, New York; ISBN 0-07-237716-X (fourth edition, 1999)


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