Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Cherax destructor



Cherax destructor (yabby)


  • Last modified
  • 09 April 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Host Animal
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Cherax destructor
  • Preferred Common Name
  • yabby
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Arthropoda
  •       Subphylum: Crustacea
  •         Class: Malacostraca
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • C. destructor is an aquatic crayfish, naturally distributed in a wide range of habitats in its native range of distribution throughout inland Australia (e.g. desert mound springs, alpine streams, subtropical cr...

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Cherax destructor (yabby); adult, captive specimen. Toba Aquarium, Japan. December 2007.
CaptionCherax destructor (yabby); adult, captive specimen. Toba Aquarium, Japan. December 2007.
Copyright©Daiju Azuma-2007 (OpenCage)/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 2.5
Cherax destructor (yabby); adult, captive specimen. Toba Aquarium, Japan. December 2007.
AdultCherax destructor (yabby); adult, captive specimen. Toba Aquarium, Japan. December 2007.©Daiju Azuma-2007 (OpenCage)/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 2.5
Cherax destructor (yabby); eggs on captive specimen. Week-old yabby eggs, 2-3mm, attached by minute hairs to underside of females abdomen.
CaptionCherax destructor (yabby); eggs on captive specimen. Week-old yabby eggs, 2-3mm, attached by minute hairs to underside of females abdomen.
Copyright©Livestock Industries/CSIRO/via wikipedia - CC BY 3.0
Cherax destructor (yabby); eggs on captive specimen. Week-old yabby eggs, 2-3mm, attached by minute hairs to underside of females abdomen.
EggsCherax destructor (yabby); eggs on captive specimen. Week-old yabby eggs, 2-3mm, attached by minute hairs to underside of females abdomen.©Livestock Industries/CSIRO/via wikipedia - CC BY 3.0


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Cherax destructor Clark, 1936

Preferred Common Name

  • yabby

Other Scientific Names

  • Cherax albidus Clark, 1936

International Common Names

  • English: common crayfish; common yabby; yabbie; yabbies; yabby; yabby crayfish
  • French: ecrevisse bleue; ecrevisse de Murray; yabbie

Local Common Names

  • Australia: gobbi; jabby; yabbee; yabber; yabbie; yabbity; yabby; yobbi; yobbie
  • Netherlands: Australische kreeft; yabby

Summary of Invasiveness

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C. destructor is an aquatic crayfish, naturally distributed in a wide range of habitats in its native range of distribution throughout inland Australia (e.g. desert mound springs, alpine streams, subtropical creeks, rivers, billabongs, ephemeral lakes, swamps, farm dams, and irrigation channels). It has a relatively high commercial value, being a culinary delicacy (‘baby lobster’) and bait for sport fishing (Western Australia Fisheries, 1999; Nguyen, 2005), but it is also used as an aquarium species and in research. As a consequence, C. destructor has been (and may be) subject to extensive translocation in Australia and elsewhere. Populations of this species have become established in Western Australia (Morrissy and Cassells, 1992; Beatty et al., 2005a; Lynas et al., 2007) and in Tasmania (Elvey et al., 1997) and, outside Australia, in Spain and in Italy (Souty-Grosset et al., 2006; Scalici et al., 2009). C. destructor is susceptible to the so-called crayfish plague, which has been used to control invasive populations in Spain. Because of its r-selected properties (Beatty et al., 2005a), high tolerance to environmental extremes and ability to cope with global warming, along with the severe impacts on other species and ecosystems, it has been classified as a high-risk species by Tricarico et al. (2009) using the FI-ISK tool.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Arthropoda
  •             Subphylum: Crustacea
  •                 Class: Malacostraca
  •                     Subclass: Eumalacostraca
  •                         Order: Decapoda
  •                             Suborder: Reptantia
  •                                 Unknown: Parastacoidea
  •                                     Family: Parastacidae
  •                                         Genus: Cherax
  •                                             Species: Cherax destructor

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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The taxonomic status of Cherax destructor is under debate (Souty-Grosset et al. 2006). Riek (1969) identified four species in the ‘C. destructor’ species-group: C.albidus, C.destructor, C.esculus, and C.davisi. Today there is consensus that C.esculus and C.davisi do not deserve recognition at the species level and that C. albidus and C. destructor are separate taxa (Sokol, 1988; Campbell et al., 1994; Austin, 1996). However, there is some disagreement concerning at what level the latter two taxa should be recognized and even if they should be distinguished at all (Austin et al., 2003). Using morphological and morphometric data, Sokol (1988) considered C. albidus as a distinct species. On the contrary, basing their view on genetic evidence, Campbell et al. (1994) and Austin (1996) interpreted the taxon as a subspecies of C. destructor. Austin et al. (2003) even stated that C. albidus and C. destructor are synonyms. The majority of zoologists (e.g. Munasinghe et al., 2004; Nguyen et al., 2004) use the species epithet destructor, but, for essentially commercial reasons, Western Australian Fisheries personnel use the epithet albidus (e.g. Morrissy and Cassells, 1992; Lawrence and Jones, 2002).

Austin et al. (2003) also recommended that C. setosus - formally referred to as C. destructor rotundus by Austin (1996) - should be recognized at the species level and that C. rotundus is a distinct species. The analysis of samples within the larger systematic context of eastern Australia confirms these designations and indicates that C. destructor, C. rotundus and C. setosus form a monophyletic group (Munasinghe et al., 2004). Allozyme data support the close relationships among these three species and their status as distinct taxa.

Austin (1985) reported little allozyme diversity from C. destructor in Western Australia, but recent studies now indicate considerable variation in yabby populations. This perhaps reflects the expansion of yabby aquaculture since the 1990s, with farmers introducing multiple strains from eastern Australia (Lynas et al., 2007).

The existence of three geographically correlated clades in C. destructor was revealed by Nguyen et al. (2004), with a high degree of genetic divergence between clades (8–15 bp) and relatively limited haplotype diversity within clades (1–3 bp). Historical processes, including fragmentation on a larger geographical scale and more recent range expansion on a local scale, appear to be responsible for such patterns of genetic variation within C. destructor.

Except for C. albidussensuAustin et al. (2003), there are no formal synonyms.

The common name, yabby, is an ambiguous term since it is also used to describe other Australian Cherax species (other than the smooth marron, Cherax cainii, and the hairy marron, Cherax tenuimanus) and Engaeus spp., and is also applied to some marine Decapoda (e.g. mud shrimp, infraorder Thalassinidea, such as the bass yabby, Trypaea australiensis Dana, 1852, a common species in southeastern Australia that is used as bait). The term yabby seems to derive from the word yabij in the aboriginal language, which was used by wandering tribes to describe the native crayfish from central Australia. The generic name Cherax is thought to be a misspelling of the Greek word 'charax', meaning a pointed stake.


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An accurate description of C. destructor is provided by Souty-Grosset et al. (2006), as follows:

Body: carapace smooth, single pair of post-orbital ridges forming a pair of long keels on the anterior carapace; no spines on shoulders behind cervical groove. Dorsal surface of telson without spines, membranous over posterior half.

Rostrum: short, broad based, triangular; borders tapering to an indistinct acumen; no spines present along borders, borders not raised; indistinct median carina.

Appendages: chelae smooth, elongated and large; inner margin of chelae propodus longer than dactylus; mat of setae along ventral surface of carpus and merus. Short spur on inferior margin of cheliped coxa.

Length: up to 15 cm of total length.

Colour: green-beige to almost black, blue-grey being common in individuals kept in captivity. Chelae dorsally showing the same colour as body, underside dirty-white or grey coloured. Colour shows a wide variability depending on the location, season and water conditions and may vary from individual to individual in a single location (Withnall, 2000).


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C. destructor ranges over 2 million km2 in its native range from South Australia and the southern parts of the Northern Territory in the west, to the Great Dividing Range in the east (Riek, 1967; Sokol, 1988). C. destructor has also been translocated (for aquaculture and the aquarium trade, possibly also by recreational fishers) to drainages in New South Wales east of the Great Dividing Range, where it has become invasive and in some cases has the potential to displace other crayfish, such as Euastacus spp. (S Ahyong, Australian Museum, personal communication, 2011). This wide range in distribution is probably partly due to translocation by aboriginal Australians (Horwitz and Knott, 1995), as the species is used as a subsistence food for some tribes (Horwitz and Knott, 1995). It appears that yabbies were largely restricted to lower altitude habitats in inland areas of southeastern Australia including the Murray-Darling Basin before European settlement, with the Euastacus spp. found in higher altitude habitats and the coastal river systems. High altitude yabby populations in Lakes Eucumbene and Jindabyne, which are on the upper reaches of the coastal Snowy River system, are unusual and may be the result of translocation.

Notwithstanding its wide distribution and its invasive potential, C. destructor is still classified by IUCN (2010) as Vulnerable. The main threats to this species are degradation of native vegetation and water pollution as a result of fertilizer and insecticide run-off from agricultural farms, as well as increased predation and competition from introduced alien species. The Australian Fisheries Management Act of 1994 designated the yabbies’ ecosystem as an Endangered Ecological Community, requiring vegetation management, run-off control and extensive surveying; without continued conservation efforts this ecosystem is under threat of irreversible degradation.

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes


ChinaPresentIntroducedAckefors, 2000


South AfricaPresentIntroducedGherardi and Holdich, 1999; FAO-DIAS, 2011
ZambiaPresentIntroducedFAO-DIAS, 2011Probably not established, introduced from South Africa


ItalyLocalised2008Introduced1980sScalici et al., 2009In Natural Preserve of ‘‘Laghi di Ninfa’’ (Province of Latina, central Italy); farmed in three Regions: Sicily, Friuli Venezia Giulia and Veneto
SpainLocalisedIntroduced1983Souty-Grosset et al., 2006Introduced in 1983 into a pond in Girona, Catalonia, from a farm in California (USA). In 1984 and 1985, introduced to the Province of Zaragoza and established. Other established populations in the Provinces of Aragona and Navarra. Two populations of Navarra have been eradicated using crayfish plague from the signal crayfish Pacifastacus leniusculus
SwitzerlandAbsent, intercepted onlyIntroducedSouty-Grosset et al., 2006Argovie


AustraliaPresentNativeAhyong, pers. comm.; Campbell et al., 1994; Horwitz and Knott , 1995; Lawrence and Jones , 2002; Austin et al., 2003
-Australian Northern TerritoryPresentNativeLawrence and Jones , 2002; Austin et al., 2003; Lynas et al., 2007
-New South WalesPresentNativeHorwitz and Knott , 1995; Lawrence and Jones , 2002; Austin et al., 2003; Lynas et al., 2007
-QueenslandPresentNativeHorwitz and Knott , 1995; Lawrence and Jones , 2002; Austin et al., 2003; Lynas et al., 2007
-South AustraliaPresentNativeCampbell et al., 1994; Horwitz and Knott , 1995; Lawrence and Jones , 2002; Lynas et al., 2007
-TasmaniaWidespreadIntroduced1960s Invasive Elvey et al., 1997
-VictoriaPresentNativeCampbell et al., 1994; Horwitz and Knott , 1995; Lawrence and Jones , 2002; Austin et al., 2003; Lynas et al., 2007
-Western AustraliaWidespreadIntroduced1932 Invasive Beatty et al., 2005a; VAC, Victorian Aquaculture Council; Austin, 1985; Morrissy and Cassells , 1992; Lawrence and Jones , 2002; Lynas et al., 2004; Lynas et al., 2007

History of Introduction and Spread

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The species was introduced to Western Australia from western Victoria in 1932 (Victorian Aquaculture Council, 1999; Western Australia Fisheries, 1999; Austin, 1985; Morrissy and Cassells, 1992). The first site of introduction was a farm dam at Narembeen, 280 km east of Perth (Lynas et al., 2007; Austin, 1985; Morrissy and Cassells, 1992). In an attempt to prevent the spread of the species into wild aquatic systems of the naturally forested, higher rainfall region of the Southwest Coast Drainage Division that is home to all 11 endemic freshwater crayfish species of this state (Austin and Knott, 1996; Horwitz and Adams, 2000), the Department of Fisheries in Western Australia allows the culture of C. destructor (still referred to as C. albidus by that Department) only east of Albany Highway between Perth and Albany. The site of introduction was thought to be characterized by a landscape that would not have facilitated the natural spread of the crayfish. On the contrary, the elevated interest in crayfish for commercial reasons, together with the hardiness of the species and its ability to grow even in stagnant farm dams, have led it to spread widely (Austin, 1985; Morrissy and Cassells, 1992; Horwitz and Knott, 1995; Beatty et al., 2005a. In 1982, C. destructor was for the first time collected from a wild aquatic system in sympatry with a native crayfish species (Cherax quinquecarinatus) in Western Australia (Austin, 1985; Lynas et al., 2004). By 1985, most known yabby sites were still east of the Albany Highway. They have since then shown a continuing strong spread. Currently, C. destructor occurs from Hutt River in the north to Esperance in the southeast (Morrissy and Cassells, 1992; Horwitz and Knott, 1995; Beatty et al., 2005a). The species has also colonized cave streams via temporary, short streams on the coastal sand-plain. Isolated populations occur in coastal plain rivers to the west of the Darling Scarp and in the arid northern Goldfields Region near Leonora. Given the extent of C. destructor’s range expansion and its capacity to colonize a wide diversity of waterbodies, it is expected that it will continue to progress into larger river systems throughout south-western Australia, as has occurred with a number of invasive fishes (Morgan et al., 2004; Beatty et al., 2005a). The species is also present in Tasmania (Lynas et al., 2007), after illegal introductions since the 1960s (Elvey et al., 1997). It was first recorded in Glen Morriston Rivulet, a small permanent stream, near Ross in the centre of the island, which is also inhabited by a Tasmanian endemic crayfish, Astacopsis franklinii. It is known from six other areas in Tasmania (from north to south: Devonport, Birralee, Launceston, Golden Valley, Cressy/Longford, Sandford; Elvey et al., 1997).

Outside Australia, C. destructor is known from Spain and Italy in Europe, from the People’s Republic of China in Asia, and from South Africa and Zambia in Africa. The first introduction to Spain occurred in 1983: the specimens came from a crayfish farm in California (USA) and were released into a pond in Girona, Catalonia (Souty-Grosset et al., 2006). In 1984-1985, another introduction was carried out into the Province of Zaragoza: in Gordués Pond near Sos del Rey Católico a population became established (Souty-Grosset et al., 2006). There are currently four populations in Spain, one in Aragón and three in Navarra (Souty-Grosset et al., 2006). In Italy, an established and highly dense (0.28 females m-2 and 0.24 males m-2) population of C. destructor was found in September 2008 (Scalici et al., 2009). This population was found in five abandoned cultivation ponds (40 x 9 x 6 m, depth about 0.6 m, with muddy bottom covered by submerged macrophytes) in the Natural Preserve of ‘‘Laghi di Ninfa’’ (Province of Latina, central Italy). The subsequent genetic characterization confirmed that the population belongs to C. destructor. No within-population variation emerged (Scalici et al., 2009). A single specimen has been found in the wild in the Swiss canton of Argovie (Souty-Grosset et al., 2006).

It is expected that C. destructor will extend its distribution range as an effect of global warming. The use of consensus techniques to generate a quantitative description of the environmental conditions favouring the establishment of four problematic invasive decapods in the Iberian Peninsula, including C. destructor, showed that this species, along with Procambarus clarkii, has reduced suitability in colder areas, whereas the suitability for P. leniusculus is greatly reduced in warmer areas (Capinha and Anastácio, 2011). Cherax destructor presents a small invasive range in the upper Ebro basin in the Iberian Peninsula. This region is dominated by moderate suitability values, which might help explain its reduced colonization rate in the Iberian Peninsula compared with the other two crayfish species. However, areas that offer high environmental suitability for C. destructor in the Iberian Peninsula, and that are highly susceptible to its invasion, are located downstream of its current invasive range in the Ebro basin (Capinha and Anastácio, 2011).


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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
Italy end 1980s Aquaculture (pathway cause) Yes No Scalici et al. (2009)
Spain California 1983 Aquaculture (pathway cause) Yes No Souty-Grosset et al. (2006)
Tasmania 1960s Fisheries (pathway cause) Yes No Elvey et al. (1997)
Western Australia Victoria 1932 Fisheries (pathway cause) Yes No Lynas et al. (2007); Morrissy and Cassells (1992)

Risk of Introduction

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C. destructor has a relatively high commercial value. In its native central-eastern Australia, it represents about 90% of crayfish production. Yabbies are commonly used as bait by recreational fishers (Nguyen, 2005), e.g. for redfin perch and trout fishing in the large irrigation dams to the south of Perth, Western Australia, with unused live bait often being discarded directly into the water (Morrissy and Cassells, 1992). The species is known as a culinary delicacy also in Europe and farmed in some countries, e.g. Italy. It is an aquarium species that is easy to maintain, and can be purchased through e-commerce (e.g. eBay). The species is increasingly used in research. As a result of all these uses by humans, the potential for specimens to be released and become established is extremely high, especially in temperate and warmer climates.

Human activity has also aided the spread of the species through misguided information and recreational carelessness. For example, in Western Australia many farmers think that they are culturing the indigenous koonac, Cherax preissii (Lynas et al., 2007), and the ability of C. destructor to walk out of unsecured dams into adjacent waterways is undoubtedly a major route of introduction from aquaculture facilities.

C. destructor has been shown to have life-history traits typical of invasive species, allowing it to colonise new environments rapidly once it is present (Beatty et al., 2005a)


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C. destructor is found in a wide variety of habitats, such as desert mound springs, alpine streams, subtropical creeks, rivers, billabongs, ephemeral lakes, swamps, farm dams, and irrigation channels (Sokol, 1988; Horwitz and Knott, 1995; Austin et al., 2003; Souty-Grosset et al., 2006). The majority of the range of C. destructor is characterized by high summer temperatures and low annual rainfall producing an environment conducive to frequent stagnation and desiccation. The ability to undergo multiple spawnings undoubtedly aids the ability of C. destructor to occupy temporary habitats and to colonize rapidly a range of new aquatic environments (Beatty et al., 2005a).

Yabbies dig burrows which can be 0.5-2 m deep; burrows are connected by access shafts to the water, which makes crayfish able to survive over summer in the burrows (Withnall, 2000). Their burrowing behaviour is a cause for concern for farmers and can make the banks of the invaded waterbodies unstable and susceptible to collapse.

Habitat List

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Irrigation channels Present, no further details Natural
Irrigation channels Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Lakes Present, no further details Natural
Lakes Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Reservoirs Present, no further details Natural
Reservoirs Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Rivers / streams Present, no further details Natural
Rivers / streams Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Ponds Present, no further details Natural
Ponds Present, no further details Productive/non-natural

Biology and Ecology

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The complete mitochondrial DNA sequence from a sample of a southwestern Victoria population of C. destructor was determined by Miller et al. (2004). The 15,895-bp genome is circular and has the same gene composition as other metazoans. However, the gene order is atypical of the putative arthropod ancestral gene arrangement and of all other arthropod genomes sequenced to date. Eleven genes appear to have been translocated, three of which have also undergone inversions. Both ‘duplication/random loss’ and ‘intramitochondrial recombination’ may be responsible for these rearrangements. This finding makes C. destructor one of nine arthropod taxa to display a gene order rearrangement (excluding tRNAs) relative to the typical arthropod mitochondrial genome.

Scalici et al. (2010) studied the karyotype of C. destructor by examining metaphase chromosome spreads from the testis tissues and the mitotic cells in division from the regeneration callus of the new forming limb. The diploid chromosome number ranged from 179 to 207 per metaphase (mode: 188); the karyotype consisted of 70 metacentric, 42 submetacentric, 48 subtelocentric and 28 telocentric chromosome pairs. The sex chromosomes were cytologically indistinguishable.

Reproductive Biology

The sex of yabbies can be determined externally: females have gonopores located at the base of the third pairs of pereopods, while male genital papillae are at the base of the fifth pair of pereopods, nearest the abdomen.

Females become sexually mature at a small size and early age, i.e. at 20 g and prior to 1 year old (Lawrence et al., 1998; Beatty et al., 2005a). Sexual maturity is reached when the yabby is approximately 6-10 cm in total length (Withnall, 2000). According to Beatty et al. (2005a), the orbital carapace length (measured from the base of the orbital region to the posterior margin of the branchiostegite) at which 50% of crayfish reached sexual maturity was 21.6 mm for females and 26.5 mm for males. A mascroscopic and histological description of ovarian development was provided by Beatty et al. (2005a).

Egg development is initiated by longer day lengths, while spawning starts with higher water temperatures. When water temperature is above 15°C, C. destructor spawns from early spring to mid summer. However, when water temperature remains between 18°C and 20°C with a long artificial daylength of 14 hours, yabbies are able to spawn repeatedly up to five times a year (Mills, 1983). In Hutt River (Southwest Coast Drainage Division of Western Australia), spawning occurs between July and January (Beatty et al., 2005a), similarly to what was recorded in farm dams in southwestern Western Australia, where newly released juveniles were found between October and February (Morrissy and Cassells, 1992).

The male deposits a spermatophore between the female's fourth and fifth pairs of pereopods after which the female extrudes her eggs, mixes them with sperm and incubates them by attaching eggs to the pleopods under her abdomen in the so-called “brood chamber”. The average clutch size is 350 eggs, with females producing from 30 to 450 eggs per brood (Merrick and Lambert, 1991). Clutch size increases with female size, reaching up to more than 1000 for a large female (Withnall, 2000). Approximately 2 mm in length and oval in shape, the fertilized eggs are usually olive green in colour (Withnall, 2000).

Berried females show a form of parental care, keeping eggs cleaned and well oxygenated and removing any mortalities or foreign particles with their fifth pereopods (Withnall, 2000). Incubation takes between 19 and 40 days depending upon temperature (Morrissy et al., 1990). In water temperatures of 20°C, the eggs hatch within 40 days. As temperature increases, the length of time taken to hatch decreases until water temperatures reach 30°C; temperatures above 30°C adversely affect hatching (Withnall, 2000). After hatching, females carry the young and release them when they are stage 3 juveniles. In newly hatched yabbies, moulting may take place every couple of days. Juvenile crayfish weigh approximately 0.02 g upon hatching. Under favourable conditions, a juvenile yabby will grow rapidly, gaining around 0.5 to 1.0 g in the first 60 days. Young are released in early and late summer (Beatty et al., 2005a).

After the young leave the mother, the female can spawn again if environmental conditions are favourable (Morrissy et al., 1990; Beatty et al., 2005a) -- up to five times per year in suitable conditions (Mills, 1983; Merrick and Lambert, 1991). Based on observations on specimens of C. albidus (C. destructorsensuAustin et al., 2003) held in aquaria, McRae and Mitchell (1995) suggested that, following spawning, ovaries are held in a constant state of readiness, with oocytes present at the end of primary vitellogenesis able to undergo secondary vitellogenesis (increase in mean size from 400 to 2000 μm); similar findings were made in a Western Australian population (Beatty et al., 2005a). McRae and Mitchell (1997) noted that, provided the female C. destructor was not ovigerous and had sufficient nutritional reserves, the presence of males was a cue that induces new maturation of oocytes. The reproductive potential of this species is thus very large and increases its potential for invasiveness (Beatty et al., 2005a).

Fowler and Leonard (1999) analyzed the androgenic gland of C. destructor. Standard histological techniques revealed androgenic glands consisting of cords of epithelial cells attached to the posterior vas deferens, either appearing as multiple cords of cells, a single cord of cells, or a cord associated with masses of cells. Each androgenic gland was sheathed in connective tissue, which attached the androgenic gland to the vas deferens. The activity of the androgenic glands was demonstrated by injecting female crayfish with a crude homogenate of terminal vas deferens and attached glandular tissue. A significantly higher number of females, relative to controls, receiving this homogenate developed male gonopores and displayed inhibition of vitellogenesis and oosetae development. These results indicate that C. destructor’s androgenic glands are similar to those of other crustaceans, and that these glands have a possible role in secondary sexual differentiation.

Population and reproductive biology of a wild translocated Western Australian population of C. destructor was examined by Beatty et al. (2005a). The species was demonstrated to mature at the end of its first year of life, have a protracted spawning period, have relatively high total mortality (Z = 2.91) and attain a similar size to the smooth marron C. cainii in its first year of life (29 mm OCL, growth coefficient K = 0.78), although having a much lower estimated maximum size than C. cainii. The life span is at least 3 years and possibly up to 6 years (Souty-Grosset et al., 2006). Moulting frequency decreases as yabbies get older until they only moult once or twice a year (Withnall, 2000). Individual growth is highly variable, and the maximum size of around 220 g for adult yabbies is reached within 2 to 3 years (Withnall, 2000). The larger yabbies are males. The chelipeds grow faster than the rest of the body, reaching the weight of 100 g in large males (Lawrence and Jones, 2002). The minimum market size is 30 g.

Physiology and Phenology

Studies on some aspects of C. destructor physiology and behaviour are increasing with the increased use of this species in research. Some examples are as follows. A study by Morris and Callaghan (1998) analyzed the physiological responses of C. destructor to simulated natural hypoxia and whether these encourage emersion. The authors found that C. destructor exhibits some compensatory responses to hypoxia, but also adopts a hypometabolic state which provides it with short term tolerance to hypoxia. However, severe or sustained hypoxia is limited by carbohydrate stores available to anaerobiosis.

Other studies have investigated the physiology of pleopods (Deller and Macmillan, 1989; Macmillan and Deller, 1989), the activity of digestive enzymes (Linton et al., 2009 -- see Nutrition section below; Coccia et al., 2011), the functioning of the antennae (McMahon et al., 2005), the ability to recognize conspecifics (Crook et al., 2004; Van der Velden et al., 2008), the responses to alarm odours emitted by con-and heterospecifics (Gherardi et al., 2002), and the generation of and the response to electric fields (Patullo and Macmillan, 2004, 2007).


Little is known about the natural diet of C. destructor, except that it is an opportunistic and omnivorous feeder, immature forms being more so. Plant material and detritus often dominate the gut contents, with arthropods making up only a small fraction of the total (Souty-Grosset et al., 2006). However, a stable isotope study of the assimilated diet of a translocated wild population of C. destructor demonstrated that the species occupied a primarily predatory trophic position in summer (consuming introduced Gambusia holbrooki) before shifting to a primarily herbivorous role in winter (Beatty, 2006). This highlighted an opportunistic diet that maximised consumption of high-protein food items when available.

C. destructor is also cannibalistic, particularly in overcrowded situations or if there is insufficient natural food available. Animals that have recently moulted are more susceptible to being cannibalized (Souty-Grosset et al., 2006).

A study on the ability of differently sized C. destructor to prey on zooplankton was conducted by Meakin et al. (2008). In yabbies lighter than 15 g, the feeding mode on Daphnia sp. involved rapid searching and probing with the first two pairs of walking legs. Once a prey item was located, the chelae on the end of these walking legs would grasp the zooplankton and then rapidly move it towards the mouthparts. Yabbies heavier than 25 g tended to use their walking legs to push the Daphnia sp. nearer to their third maxillipeds which would then force or scoop the zooplankton towards the mouthparts. A short-term feeding trial showed that there was no significant difference between size classes in regards to zooplankton consumption except that yabbies lighter than 15 g consumed over 5% of their body weight whereas yabbies at weight classes of 15–24.9, 25–34.9 and 35–45 g consumed only 1.08, 0.8 and 0.6% of their body weight, respectively. In the presence of both live zooplankton and a pellet diet, yabbies spent significantly more time feeding on zooplankton (85%) than on inert pellets (15%).

Linton et al. (2009) analyzed food utilization and digestive ability in C. destructor in comparison to Engaeus sericatus. The faeces consisted of mainly plant material with minor amounts of arthropods, algae and fungi. The morphology of the gastric mill of C. destructor suggests that it is mainly involved in crushing food material, being seemingly relatively efficient in grinding soft materials such as animal protein and algae. High amounts of lipids are accumulated in the midgut glands (about 60% of the dry mass), mostly composed of triacylglycerols (81-82% of total lipids). The dominating fatty acids were 16:0, 16:1(n-7), 18:1(n-9), 18:2(n-6), and 18:3(n-3). The two latter fatty acids can only be synthesized by plants and are thus indicative of the consumption of terrestrial plants by crayfish. The complement of digestive enzymes, such as proteinases, cellulase, β-glucosidase, laminarinase and xylanase within the midgut gland suggests that C. destructor is capable of hydrolyzing a variety of substrates associated with an omnivorous diet. High total protease and N-acetyl-β-D-glucosaminidase activity in the midgut gland of C. destructor suggests that this species is able to digest animal materials in the form of arthropods.

C. destructor is a nocturnal species. Feeding behaviour is mostly controlled by the amount of light filtering through the water and it is often found that the greatest periods of activity occur shortly before dawn and just after dusk (Withnall, 2000). Water temperature also plays an important role in the level of activity. At the temperature extremes, feeding rate decreases along with metabolic rate, which will result in reduced growth (Withnall, 2000).

Environmental Requirements

C. destructor is adapted to a wide range of water temperatures, between 1°C and 35°C. It does not grow at water temperatures below 15°C and falls into a state of partial hibernation (i.e. metabolism and feeding cease) when water temperature drops below 16°C (Withnall, 2000). Growth ceases at 34°C and mortalities start to occur at 36°C (Mills, 1983; Morrissy et al., 1990; Merrick and Lambert, 1991; Morrissy and Cassells, 1992). The ideal temperature range for optimum growth is 20-25°C (Withnall, 2000).

It tolerates high salinities, with growth ceasing at 8 ppt (approximately equal to 25% seawater) and mortalities starting to occur at 16 ppt (Mills and Geddes, 1980). It tolerates oxygen concentration <1 mg L-1, being able to survive for a short time at 0 mg L-1 oxygen (Mills, 1983; Morrissy and Cassells, 1992).

Waters with a pH between 7.5 and 8.5 are preferred; however, yabbies can tolerate a pH of 7.0 and 9.0; a pH of below 7.0 increases the toxicity of dissolved metals within the water column and makes the exoskeleton softer, and a pH of above 9.0 greatly increases the toxicity of ammonia (PIRSA, 2011).

Alkalinity and hardness levels of 50-300 mg-1 provide a good buffering effect to pH swings associated with the respiration of aquatic flora and fauna; a lack of calcium in the water results in soft-shelled yabbies (PIRSA, 2011).

Yabbies are commonly found on muddy or silted bottoms and are rarely found in clear water habitats; they seem to prefer water with moderate levels of turbidity. Possibly, muddy waters afford some protection from predators such as fish and birds, giving the yabby a better chance of survival (Withnall, 2000). Secchi depths of 20-60 cm are recommended for the optimal management of farm ponds (PIRSA, 2011).

Khan and Nugegoda (2007) showed that C. destructor 4-week old juveniles were less sensitive to trace metals than most other tested aquatic organism, showing 96-h LC50 values of 379 μg L-1 for cadmium, 494 μg/L-1 for copper, 50 mg L-1 for iron and 327 mg L-1 for nickel.


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A - Tropical/Megathermal climate Preferred Average temp. of coolest month > 18°C, > 1500mm precipitation annually
C - Temperate/Mesothermal climate Preferred Average temp. of coldest month > 0°C and < 18°C, mean warmest month > 10°C
Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Tolerated Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers
Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter Tolerated Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)

Water Tolerances

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ParameterMinimum ValueMaximum ValueTypical ValueStatusLife StageNotes
Dissolved oxygen (mg/l) Optimum Can survive for a short time at 0 (Mills, 1983; Morrissy and Cassells, 1992)
Hardness (mg/l of Calcium Carbonate) 50 300 Optimum In the natural environment
Salinity (part per thousand) >8 Harmful Adult Under culture conditions
Salinity (part per thousand) >8 Harmful Larval Under culture conditions
Salinity (part per thousand) >8 Harmful Fry Under culture conditions
Salinity (part per thousand) 0 5 Optimum Adult Under culture conditions
Salinity (part per thousand) Optimum In the natural environment, growth ceases at 8; mortalities start to occur at 16 (Mills and Geddes, 1980)
Turbidity (JTU turbidity) Optimum In the natural environment, 20-60 cm (PIRSA, 2011)
Water pH (pH) 7.5 8.5 Optimum In the natural environment, 7.0 and 9.0 tolerated (PIRSA, 2011)
Water temperature (ºC temperature) >34 Harmful Adult Under culture conditions
Water temperature (ºC temperature) >34 Harmful Larval Under culture conditions
Water temperature (ºC temperature) >34 Harmful Fry Under culture conditions
Water temperature (ºC temperature) 15 30 28 Optimum Adult Under culture conditions
Water temperature (ºC temperature) 20 28 Optimum In the natural environment, 1-35 tolerated. Growth ceases below 15 and over 34; mortalities start to occur at 36 (Mills, 1983; Morrissy et al., 1990; Merrick and Lambert, 1991; Morrissy and Cassells,

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Aphanomyces astaci Pathogen Adults/Juveniles not specific
Maccullochella peelii peelii Predator Juveniles not specific
Macquaria ambigua Predator Fry not specific
Thelohania parastaci Pathogen Adults/Juveniles not specific

Notes on Natural Enemies

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C. destructor is susceptible to the crayfish plague caused by the oomycete Aphanomyces astaci. However, testing for crayfish plague since 1989 has shown that this disease is not present in Australia (Jones and Lawrence, 2001). Other diseases and pathogens reported for this species are: burn spot disease, Psorospermium sp., and thelohaniasis (Jones and Lawrence, 2001; Moodie et al., 2003; Souty-Grosset et al., 2006).

Specifically, the microsporidian Thelohania parastaci is known to be carried by the yabby (Horwitz, 1990; Moodie et al., 2003). Thelohania was found in Western Australia farm dam populations of yabbies in the 1990s (Jones and Lawrence, 2001), and has since been reported in yabby populations in the Hutt River (Beatty, 2005). It is also known as “chalky tail” due to the Thelohania organism causing the tail muscle to become white and chalky in appearance.

Ectocommensal protozoans, temnocephalid flatworms and Epistylis sp. can infect C. destructor. The platyhelminth Temnocephala is an ectocommensal that resides on the exoskeleton of yabbies. It is often associated with low salinity and nutrient-rich waters. Eggs of temnocephalids are laid on the underside of the abdomen of yabbies and sometimes in their gill cavity. Temnocephalids are rarely harmful unless they are present in extremely high densities. Presence of adult temnocephalids or their eggs within the gill chamber of yabbies may cause respiratory problems. Their appearance may also reduce the market value. Adult temnocephalids can easily be removed by washing the yabbies in a salt bath for a couple of minutes. However the eggs of temnocephalids are extremely adherent and remain even after steaming and boiling (PIRSA, 2011).

Nematodes, such as Gammarinema sp., have been found in the gill chamber and cestodes in the muscle tissue (Jones and Lawrence, 2001; Souty-Grosset et al., 2006).

The main predators in Australia are birds (cormorants, herons and the ibis), fish (Murray cod Maccullochella peelii and Callop Plectroplites ambiguus), terrapins, and water rats. Carp often compete with yabbies for food sources and may displace yabbies from their habitat through their foraging activities (Withnall, 2000). Invertebrates such as dragonfly larvae, chironomid larvae and some beetles often prey on juvenile crayfish (Withnall, 2000). As with most crayfish, C. destructor is cannibalistic, particularly on juveniles and newly-moulted individuals (Souty-Grosset et al., 2006).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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C. destructor has been introduced intentionally into Western Australia, Tasmania and Europe for aquaculture purposes (Horwitz, 1990). Natural dispersal may occur within the same basin but nothing is known about its migration ability. Anecdotal reports suggest that C. destructor emerges from hypoxic water to breathe air and migrates between waterbodies (Morris and Callaghan, 1998).

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Aquaculture stock Yes Yes Horwitz, 1990; Lynas et al., 2007
Bait Yes Lynas et al., 2007
MailF Gherardi, Universita' degli Studi di Firenze, Italy, pers. comm., 2011 Yes Yes
Pets and aquarium speciesF Gherardi, Universita' degli Studi di Firenze, Italy, pers. comm., 2011 Yes Yes

Impact Summary

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Economic/livelihood Positive and negative
Environment (generally) Negative
Fisheries / aquaculture Positive

Economic Impact

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C. destructor is the main fished and cultivated species of freshwater crayfish in Australia, with a total production of 67 tons in 2009 vs. a maximum of 336 tons reached in 1994 (FAO fishery statistics; Farming of this species commenced in the early 1980s in South Australia and then spread from South Australia to Western Australia, Victoria and New South Wales (Lawrence and Jones, 2002). Its production requires very inexpensive technology; initial cost of farming is low as most farmers utilize existing dams that have been built for the watering of agricultural livestock. A common practice is trapping wild individuals out of farmers’ dams (Lawrence and Jones, 2002). There is no need for a hatchery for yabbies. Once established in dams, yabby populations often become self-sustaining and very little has to be done by the farmer to enhance production. Farmers occasionally provide some supplementary feed for the yabbies in their dams. However, issues, such as uncontrolled breeding, post-harvest handling and maintenance of a high quality product for market, need to be considered. Attempts to improve the farming of yabbies using purpose-built ponds will increase productivity; however, a cost benefit analysis is necessary and should be based on realistic production return estimates (Withnall, 2000). Extensive pond or dam production has reported yields of 400-690 kg ha-1 yr-1 (Lawrence and Jones, 2002). The adoption of intensive farming was expected to increase yield up to 1500-2000 kg ha-1 yr-1 (Lawrence and Jones, 2002).

C. destructor fetches much lower prices than C. tenuimanus. Prices for yabbies generally range around AUS $8-10 kg-1, although prices of up to AUS $35 kg-1 have been recorded in restaurants. Prices of yabbies depend on size, with larger yabbies commanding higher prices, as well as on quality, consistency of supply and presentation (Love and Langenkamp, 2003). Minimum marketable weight for yabbies is 30 g, which may be reached in around 6 months. Yabbies have excellent marketing attributes due to their presentation on the table and good meat yield, which is around 15-20% of the total body weight (PIRSA, 2011). Live yabbies are supplied within Australia to top restaurants and retail fish shops (Western Australia Fisheries, 1999).

Approximately 70% of the yabbies produced in Western Australia are exported to Asia and Europe (Lawrence et al., 1998). In Europe, C. destructor specimens can be found for sale (live) at restaurants in Lausanne near Lake Geneva. Some 10-15 tons of live C. destructor are imported annually into Germany from Australia (Souty-Grosset et al., 2006) and in the 1990s the species was known in fish markets in England (Souty-Grosset et al., 2006). In 1997, 3.7 tons were cultivated in Italy (although this figure may have included some C. quadricarinatus) (Souty-Grosset et al., 2006). A “Pilot Aquaculture Laboratory for Cherax spp. intensive farming” was opened in Siculiana (Siciliy, Italy) in April 2005 with crayfish imported from Mulataga Aquaculture (Perth, Western Australia), as C. albidus (i.e. C. destructorsensuAustin et al., 2003) (information from Coccia et al., 2011).

Environmental Impact

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Despite its range expansion and suitability as colonizers, little research has been undertaken to ascertain the possible ecological impacts of the invasive C. destructor. We may infer that environmental impacts should be high both when it is the only crayfish species in the ecosystem of introduction and when other crayfish species are present (see Gherardi (2007) for a general discussion on the impacts of alien crayfish). These effects are due to the high fecundity, quick growth rate, high population densities, competitive ability, and feeding habits of the species (Beatty et al., 2005a; Beatty, 2006). Biodiversity may decrease due to the potential of C. destructor to hybridize with congeneric species (to be proven), to compete for food or space (e.g. with indigenous crayfish species), to prey on macroinvertebrates including snails (Beatty, 2006), as well as on fishes (Beatty, 2006) and amphibians (to be proven), to consume macrophytes (to be proven), and to be a vector of parasites.

The spread of yabbies into natural habitats has generated potential for interactions with indigenous fauna (Beatty et al., 2005a). For example, the spread of yabbies into the Swan-Avon catchment in Western Australia has led to their possible interaction with the critically endangered western swamp tortoise, Pseudemydura umbrina, near the Ellen Brook Nature Reserve proclaimed for preservation of the tortoise (Bradsell et al., 2002). Yabbies showed strongly aggressive and predatory behaviour towards tortoise hatchlings in a laboratory study using hatchlings of a non-endangered species of tortoise (Bradsell et al., 2002).

Body size and chelae size are major factors determining the outcome of competitive interactions between individual crayfish (Gherardi et al., 1999). C. destructor possesses chelae of considerable size (Austin and Knott, 1996). Furthermore, its growth rate in the first year of life in a wild translocated population was demonstrated to be similar to that of the large smooth marron C. cainii (Beatty et al., 2005a), and therefore it would be capable of competing with that species and outcompeting  the relatively small gilgie C. quinquecarinatus for access to resources (Beatty et al., 2005b; Beatty, 2006). The potential impact of the yabby on the koonac, C. preissii, is currently unknown, but juvenile koonacs are likely to be outcompeted by larger yabbies when they emerge from burrows (Lynas et al., 2007).

Potential impacts on Engaewa spp. are likely due to changes to the induced habitat alteration, changes to food web dynamics, and the introduction of diseases. C. destructor may be also a threat to the hairy marron, C. tenuimanus, and its fishery, as it breeds faster and may carry diseases (Souty-Grosset et al., 2006). Although the Tasmanian Astacopsis franklinii is competitively superior to C. destructor, at least in the laboratory setting, direct predation on juveniles, quick population growth, ability to resist desiccation by burrowing, the introduction of alien parasites and diseases are all means that might allow the replacement of A. franklinii by C. destructor (Elvey et al., 1997).

C. destructor’s agonistic behaviour, as compared to Euastacus armatus, was studied by Hazlett et al. (2007). While the agonistic patterns of E. armatus appeared similar to those shown by most crayfish, individuals of C. destructor execute an unusual, highly stylized cheliped “punch” behaviour during strong interactions. Juvenile C. destructor exhibited gregarious behaviour, tending to co-occupy burrows and being physically near each other.

Behavioural studies proved the ability of C. destructor to outcompete the smooth marron C. cainii and the gilgie C. quinquecarinatus (Lynas et al., 2007). Results from both aggressive behaviour and sediment competition trials indicate that, in habitats of co-occurrence where there is substantial overlap in resource use, the potential for exclusion of smooth marron and/or gilgies by the invasive yabby is high (Lynas, 2002; Lynas et al., 2007). In the laboratory, yabbies were found to be capable of evicting both smooth marron and gilgies from suitable substrates, thereby indicating the exclusion of these species from the use of a limiting resource at least under laboratory situations (Lynas et al., 2007). In natural environments, the smooth marron is likely to be at a disadvantage. Although attaining a smaller size than smooth marron (220 g versus 2 kg) (Withnall, 2000), C. destructor has a similar growth rate in the first year of life (Beatty et al., 2004, 2005a), and reaches maturity and releases juveniles earlier (Beatty et al., 2004, 2005a). Therefore, it would have the size advantage when members of both species come into contact in natural systems and may dominate food resources and suitable shelter sites over smooth marron juveniles. Cherax cainii would have little likelihood of successfully establishing stable populations where yabbies already exist. However, predicting the outcome of which species would ‘win’ when yabbies invade a river system with a stable smooth marron population already in occupation is much more difficult and probably depends upon the initial conditions. Larger C. cainii may dominate access to limiting resources over smaller yabbies. Nevertheless, yabbies would persist due to their high fecundity and ability to withstand environmental fluctuations resulting in a more unpredictable future. The survival of C. cainii populations would be subject to increased uncertainty since their juveniles would be unable to compete successfully with yabbies.

Furthermore, C. destructor has the potential to compete with C. cainii for food resources, as investigated by Beatty (2006) using multiple stable isotope analyses. In summer, the two species occupy similar predatory trophic positions: their assimilated diet consisted of a large proportion of Gambusia holbrooki. In winter, although C. cainii continued to assimilate animal matter, C. destructor appeared to shift towards a more herbivorous/detrital diet. Such ability to switch trophic positions, when an otherwise abundant, high protein food sources (i.e. fish) becomes limited (as was the case in winter in the Hutt River), allows it to coexist with C. cainii and possibly to outcompete it.

Current climatic trends in Western Australia likely afford a further advantage to the invasive yabby. With an increasingly drying climate and reduced rainfall, groundwater levels are decreasing (Allan and Haylock, 1993; CSIRO, 2009). Those crayfish able to burrow to the water table may survive dry periods (Taylor, 1983). The yabby is a strong burrower (Morrissy et al., 1984) and has been recorded alive from burrows beneath lake beds that have been dry for eight years (Holdich and Lowery, 1988). Cherax cainii, however, inhabits permanent freshwater systems and is not a strong burrower but shows a preference for sheltering under logs or stones in the bed of streams (Shipway, 1951). Therefore, although the burrowing behaviour of other endemic Cherax species in south-western Australia is not well documented, C. cainii at least would be likely to be more severely impacted by lowering groundwater levels, with yabbies therefore having a considerable advantage.

Indigenous crayfish are at risk from infection from the microsporidian Thelohania parastaci carried by the yabby. Western Australian crayfish species had not been exposed previously to the disease and therefore are likely to be susceptible. This microsporidian could be transmitted to indigenous species by yabbies. Infection of crayfish by this parasite leads to the destruction of striated and cardiac muscle tissue, resulting in reduced locomotor activity (Cossins and Bowler, 1974; Quilter, 1976). Survival time of infected individuals has been reported to range from a few months (in the New Zealand Paranephrops zealandicus) to two years (in the European Austropotamobius pallipes), although whether death is always inevitable for infected individuals has yet to be ascertained (Moodie et al., 2003). Thelohania, therefore, may increase the risk of predation of infected crayfish and reduces their ability to compete with healthy individuals.

Due to its high reproductive potential, burrowing behaviour, and wide tolerance to environmental conditions, C. destructor has the potential to become a major threat to the indigenous crayfish species in Europe, if it becomes more widely established.

Threatened Species

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Threatened SpeciesConservation StatusWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
Astacopsis frankliniiLC (IUCN red list: Least concern) LC (IUCN red list: Least concern)TasmaniaCompetitionElvey et al., 1997
Cherax cainii (smooth marron)No DetailsWestern AustraliaCompetition; Pest and disease transmissionBeatty, 2005; Beatty, 2006; Beatty et al., 2004; Beatty et al., 2005a; Lynas et al., 2007
Cherax quinquecarinatusLC (IUCN red list: Least concern) LC (IUCN red list: Least concern)Western AustraliaCompetition; Pest and disease transmissionBeatty et al., 2005b; Lynas et al., 2007
Pseudemydura umbrina (western swamp tortoise)CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered)Western AustraliaCompetitionBradsell et al., 2002

Social Impact

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No social negative impact is known. The possibility exists that this species might be a vector of parasites and diseases that might affect humans.

Olszewski (1980), Sokol (1988), and Horwitz and Knott (1995) report that yabbies are a subsistence food for some Aboriginal tribes in Australia. There is a positive impact due to the recreational value of “yabbying” (i.e. catching yabbies). In Australian rivers and farm dams, this is a popular summertime activity, particularly with children. The most popular method involves tying a piece of meat to a few metres of string or fishing line, which in turn is fastened to a stick in the bank, and throwing the meat into the water. The string is pulled tight when a yabby grasps the meat in its claws and tries to make off with it. The line is then slowly pulled back to the bank, with the grasping yabby usually maintaining its hold on the meat. When the meat and the grasping yabby reaches the water's edge, a net is used to quickly scoop up both the meat and the grasping yabby in one movement.

In Australia, other methods of catching yabbies involve various types of nets and traps. Many types of nets and traps are banned, since platypus, water rats and long-necked turtles can become trapped in them and drown.

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Is a habitat generalist
  • Capable of securing and ingesting a wide range of food
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Long lived
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Gregarious
  • Has high genetic variability
Impact outcomes
  • Conflict
  • Infrastructure damage
  • Negatively impacts agriculture
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of endangered species
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Pest and disease transmission
  • Herbivory/grazing/browsing
  • Rapid growth
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally illegally
  • Difficult/costly to control


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C. destructor is used in aquaculture and fisheries, as a live bait and, occasionally, as a pet. The potential for making its cultivation more feasible from an economic point of view, thus increasing its economic value, might inevitably lead to its (legal or illegal) human-aided movement outside its native range, unless efficient preventive and control measures are implemented (see the European Commission Council Regulation No 708/2007, June 11, 2007, concerning aquaculture practices in relation to alien and locally absent species). Technology may also aid an environment-safe production of yabbies. A hybrid between two yabby species that results in only male progeny has provided a technique for controlling reproduction in carefully stocked ponds in Australia (Lawrence and Jones, 2002). Hybridization may also produce sterile yabbies, with the potential control of reproduction in ponds and dams (Souty-Grosset et al., 2006).

Uses List

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Animal feed, fodder, forage

  • Bait/attractant


  • Laboratory use
  • Pet/aquarium trade
  • Research model
  • Sport (hunting, shooting, fishing, racing)

Human food and beverage

  • Fresh meat
  • Frozen meat
  • Live product for human consumption
  • Meat/fat/offal/blood/bone (whole, cut, fresh, frozen, canned, cured, processed or smoked)
  • Whole

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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C. destructor can be distinguished from the Australian red claw crayfish Cherax quadricarinatus and C. tenuimanus by its simple rostrum with borders not spinous or raised or extended into keels (Horwitz, 1995).

Prevention and Control

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Two populations of C. destructor have been eradicated in Navarra region of Spain using crayfish plague obtained from the signal crayfish, Pacifastacus leniusculus (Souty-Grosset et al., 2006). Either C. destructor infected in the laboratory or chronically infected P. leniusculus were introduced into the invaded ponds and the C. destructor invasive populations died after about 1 month and 4 months, respectively (Souty-Grosset et al., 2006).

Most efforts should be directed to developing detection and inspection methods, diagnosis, and prevention (including SPS measures, early warning systems, rapid response, and public awareness). Risk assessment protocols should be developed to quantify the magnitude of the impact of these potential invaders on the recipient ecosystems (Tricarico et al., 2009). The likelihood of unintentional introductions through merchandise imports could be reduced through more strict control procedures.

Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs

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There are relatively few publications about the biology and ecology of C. destructor apart from introduced populations in Western Australia (e.g. Austin 1985; Beatty et al., 2005a, Beatty 2006). The taxonomy of the Cherax destructor complex is probably still regarded as unresolved.  Diseases of the species require further research. There exists a considerable amount of information relating to the aquaculture of the species. Our knowledge about its environmental and socioeconomic impacts is poor and scarcely documented.


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Ackefors HEG, 2000. Freshwater crayfish farming technology in the 1990s: a European and global perspective. Fish and Fisheries, 1(4):337-359

Allan RJ, Haylock MR, 1993. Circulation features associated with the winter rainfall decrease in southwestern Australia. Journal of Climate, 7:1356-1367

Austin CM, 1985. Introduction of the yabbie, Cherax destructor (Decapoda: Parastacidae) into southwestern Australia. Western Australian Naturalist, 16:78-82

Austin CM, 1996. Systematics of the freshwater crayfish genus Cherax Erichson (Decapoda: Parastacidae) in northern and eastern Australia: electrophoretic and morphological variation. Australian Journal of Zoology, 44:259-296

Austin CM, Knott B, 1996. Systematics of the freshwater crayfish genus Cherax Erichson (Decapoda: Parastacidae) in south-western Australia: electrophoretic, morphological and habitat variation. Australian Journal of Zoology, 44:223-258

Austin CM, Nguyen TTT, Meewan MM, Jerry D, 2003. The taxonomy and evolution of the Cherax destructor complex (Decapoda: Parastacidae) re-examined using mitochondrial 16S sequence. Australian Journal of Zoology, 51:99-110

Beatty S, 2005. Translocations of freshwater crayfish: contributions from life histories, trophic relations and diseases of three species in Western Australia. Western Australia, Australia: Murdoch University

Beatty S, Morgan D, Gill H, 2005. Role of life history strategy in the colonisation of Western Australian aquatic systems by the introduced crayfish Cherax destructor Clark, 1936. Hydrobiologia, 549:219-237

Beatty SJ, 2006. The diet and trophic positions of translocated, sympatric populations of Cherax destructor and Cherax cainii in the Hutt River, Western Australia: evidence of resource overlap. Marine and Freshwater Research, 57(8):825-835

Beatty SJ, Morgan DL, Gill HS, 2003. Reproductive biology of the large freshwater crayfish Cherax cainii in south-western Australia. Marine and Freshwater Research, 54(5):597-608

Beatty SJ, Morgan DL, Gill HS, 2004. Biology of a translocated population of the large freshwater crayfish, Cherax cainii Austin & Ryan, 2002 in a Western Australian river. Crustaceana, 77(11):1329-1351

Beatty SJ, Morgan DL, Gill HS, 2005. Life-history and reproductive biology of the gilgie Cherax quinquecarinatus, a freshwater crayfish endemic to south-western Australia. Journal of Crustacean Biology, 25(2):251-262

Bradsell P, Prince J, Kuchling G, Knott B, 2002. Aggressive interactions between freshwater turtle, Chelodina oblonga, hatchlings and freshwater crayfish, Cherax spp.: Implications for the conservation of the critically endangered western swamp turtle, Pseudemydura umbrina. Wildlife Research, 29:295-301

Campbell N, Geddes JHM, Adams M, 1994. Genetic variation in yabbies, Cherax destructor and C. albidus (Crustacea: Decapoda: Parastacidae), indicates the presence of a single, highly sub-structures species. Australian Journal of Zoology, 42:745-760

Capinha C, Anastácio P, 2011. Assessing the environmental requirements of invaders using ensembles of distribution models. Diversity and Distributions, 17(1):13-24.

Clark E, 1936. The freshwater crayfishes of Australia. Memoirs of the National Museum of Victoria, 10:5-58

Coccia E, Varricchio E, Paolucci M, 2011. Digestive enzymes in the crayfish Cherax albidus: Polymorphism and partial characterization. International Journal of Zoology, 2011:1-9

Cossins AR, Bowler K, 1974. An histological and ultrastructural study of Thelohania contejeani Henneguy 1892 (Nosematidae), microsporidian parasite of the crayfish Austropotamobius pallipes Lereboullet. Parasitology, 68:81-91

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Links to Websites

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Crayfish Home Page, Brigham University, Provo, UT
GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gateway source for updated system data added to species habitat list.
Global register of Introduced and Invasive species (GRIIS) source for updated system data added to species habitat list.


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25/07/11 Updated by:

Francesca Gherardi, Dipartimento di Biologia Evoluzionistica 'Leo Pardi', Universita' degli Studi di Firenze, Via Romana 17, I-50125 Firenze, Italy

26/04/04 Original text by:

Uma Sabapathy Allen, Human Sciences, CAB International, Wallingford, Oxon, OX10 8DE, UK

Reviewers' names are available on request.

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