Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Astacus astacus
(European crayfish)



Astacus astacus (European crayfish)


  • Last modified
  • 24 November 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Threatened Species
  • Host Animal
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Astacus astacus
  • Preferred Common Name
  • European crayfish
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Arthropoda
  •       Subphylum: Crustacea
  •         Class: Malacostraca

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Astacus astacus (European crayfish); adult, captive specimen. Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde Karlsruhe, Germany. August 2009.
CaptionAstacus astacus (European crayfish); adult, captive specimen. Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde Karlsruhe, Germany. August 2009.
Copyright©H. Zell-2009/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 3.0
Astacus astacus (European crayfish); adult, captive specimen. Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde Karlsruhe, Germany. August 2009.
AdultAstacus astacus (European crayfish); adult, captive specimen. Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde Karlsruhe, Germany. August 2009.©H. Zell-2009/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 3.0


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Astacus astacus Linnaeus, 1758

Preferred Common Name

  • European crayfish

International Common Names

  • English: broad-fingered crayfish; noble crayfish


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Astacus astacus is believed to have been an object of trade, commerce and zoological study in Europe since the 1800s (Skurdal and Taugbøl, 2002). They are economically important due to their status as a delicacy (Spitz, 1973; Brinck, 1975; Westman, 1991; Westman et al., 1992). Although A. astacus have been exploited and eaten as early as the 1200s in Central Europe, in Scandinavia they were not considered suitable for human consumption until the 1500s (Westman, 1991). Although commercial harvesting of A. astacus is thought to have started in the Middle Ages, it only developed into a big industry in the nineteenth century as demand for crayfish increased. The industry was dealt a severe blow between 1893 and 1907 with the arrival of crayfish plague. In 2004, the catch was estimated to be 2.5-4.8 million individuals compared with estimates of 10 million specimens before the plague struck (Skurdal and Taugbøl, 2002). A. astacus are mainly cultured in the Nordic and Baltic countries and in the Alpine region; they are mainly produced for stocking, re-establishing lost stocks and to some extent for consumption, involving both the production of juveniles for stocking in natural waters and for the aquaculture industry, and the production of crayfish for consumption (Skurdal and Taugbøl, 2002).

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Arthropoda
  •             Subphylum: Crustacea
  •                 Class: Malacostraca
  •                     Subclass: Eumalacostraca
  •                         Order: Decapoda
  •                             Suborder: Reptantia
  •                                 Unknown: Astacoidea
  •                                     Family: Astacidae
  •                                         Genus: Astacus
  •                                             Species: Astacus astacus


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A. astacus are usually dark brown or black on the dorsal side, and olive-brown on the ventral side. They are usually not more than 150 mm in total length (tip of rostrum to end of telson); however, specimens of 170 mm and 270 g have been reported (Westman et al., 1990). The carapace is smooth but with small granular tubercles on the sides. The rostrum is flat with two spines near the base. The claws are broad, with well-formed bases, red-brown on the ventral side and rough on the dorsal side.

It is possible to recognise mature males and females prior to the spawning period by observing the eggs and sperm by bending the tail and rostrum and observing the area in between.


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A. astacus is widely distributed in Europe, extending from France in the southeast to Russia in the east, and from Italy, Albania and Greece in the south to Scandinavia in the north (Cukerzis et al., 1988; Holdich et al., 1999). It has been introduced to England, Cyprus, Spain and Liechtenstein, and also the Siberian River Ob and to Morocco (Cukerzis et al., 1988; Holdich et al., 1999).

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.

Last updated: 09 Mar 2020
Continent/Country/Region Distribution Last Reported Origin First Reported Invasive Reference Notes


MoroccoPresentIntroducedCukerzis (1988); Holdich et al. (1999)


AlbaniaPresentNativeSkurdal and Taugbøl (2002)Original citation: Skurdal and Taugbl (2002)
AustriaPresentNativeCABI (Undated)Original citation: Skurdal and Taugbl (2002)
BelarusPresentNativeCABI (Undated)Original citation: Skurdal and Taugbl (2002)
BelgiumPresentNativeCABI (Undated)Original citation: Skurdal and Taugbl (2002)
BulgariaPresentNativeCABI (Undated)Original citation: Skurdal and Taugbl (2002)
CroatiaPresentNativeCABI (Undated)Original citation: Skurdal and Taugbl (2002)
CyprusPresentIntroducedCABI (Undated)Original citation: Skurdal and Taugbl (2002)
CzechiaPresentNativeCABI (Undated)Original citation: Skurdal and Taugbl (2002)
DenmarkPresentNativeCABI (Undated)Original citation: Skurdal and Taugbl (2002)
EstoniaPresentNativeCABI (Undated)Original citation: Skurdal and Taugbl (2002)
FinlandPresentNativeCABI (Undated)Original citation: Skurdal and Taugbl (2002)
FrancePresentNativeCABI (Undated)Original citation: Skurdal and Taugbl (2002)
GermanyPresentNativeCABI (Undated)Original citation: Skurdal and Taugbl (2002)
GreecePresentNativeCABI (Undated)Original citation: Skurdal and Taugbl (2002)
HungaryPresentNativeCABI (Undated)Original citation: Skurdal and Taugbl (2002)
ItalyPresentNativeCABI (Undated)Original citation: Skurdal and Taugbl (2002)
LatviaPresentNativeCABI (Undated)Original citation: Skurdal and Taugbl (2002)
LiechtensteinPresentIntroducedCABI (Undated)Original citation: Skurdal and Taugbl (2002)
LithuaniaPresentNativeCABI (Undated)Original citation: Skurdal and Taugbl (2002)
LuxembourgPresentNativeCABI (Undated)Original citation: Skurdal and Taugbl (2002)
NetherlandsPresentNativeCABI (Undated)Original citation: Skurdal and Taugbl (2002)
NorwayPresentNativeCABI (Undated)Original citation: Skurdal and Taugbl (2002)
PolandPresentNativeCABI (Undated)Original citation: Skurdal and Taugbl (2002)
RomaniaPresentNativeCABI (Undated)Original citation: Skurdal and Taugbl (2002)
RussiaPresentNativeCABI (Undated)Original citation: Skurdal and Taugbl (2002)
Serbia and MontenegroPresentNativeCABI (Undated)Original citation: Skurdal and Taugbl (2002)
SlovakiaPresentNativeCABI (Undated)Original citation: Skurdal and Taugbl (2002)
SpainPresentIntroducedCABI (Undated)Original citation: Skurdal and Taugbl (2002)
SwedenPresentNativeCABI (Undated)Original citation: Skurdal and Taugbl (2002)
SwitzerlandPresentNativeCABI (Undated)Original citation: Skurdal and Taugbl (2002)
United KingdomPresentIntroducedCABI (Undated)Original citation: Skurdal and Taugbl (2002)

Invasive Species Threats

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Invasive SpeciesWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
Aphanomyces astaciPathogenicIUCN, 2009
Faxonius limosus (Spiny-cheek crayfish)EuropeCompetition - monopolizing resources; Competition (unspecified); Pest and disease transmissionHoldich et al., 2006


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Abrahamson SAA, 1983. Trappability, locomotion and diel pattern of activity of the crayfish Astacus astacus and Pacifastacus leniusculus Dana. Freshwater Crayfish, 5:239-253.

Abrahamsson SAA, 1966. Dynamics of an isolated population of the crayfish Astacus astacus Linne. Oikos, 17: 96-107.

Abrahamsson SAA, 1971. Density, growth and reproduction in populations of Astacus astacus Linne. Oikos.

Ackefors H, 1997. The development of crayfish culture in Sweden during the last decade. Freshwater Crayfish, 11:627-654.

Ackefors H; Castell JD; Boston LD; Räty P; Svensson M, 1992. Standard experimental diets for crustacean nutrition research. II. Growth and survival of juvenile crayfish Astacus astacus (Linné) fed diets containing various amount of protein, carbohydrate and lipid. Aquaculture, 104(3/4):341-356.

Ackefors H; Lindqvist OV, 1994. Cultivation of freshwater crayfishes in Europe. In: Huner JV, ed. Freshwater Crayfish Aquaculture. New York, USA: Haworth Press, 157-216.

Appelberg M, 1984. Early development of the crayfish Astacus astacus L. in acid water. Report of the Institute of Freshwater Research, Drottningholm, 61:48-59.

Appelberg M, 1986. The crayfish Astacus astacus in acid and neutralized environments. DPhil thesis. Uppsala, Sweden: University of Uppsala.

Appelberg M, 1990. Population regulation of the crayfish Astacus astacus L. after liming an oligotrophic, low-alkaline forest lake. Limnologica, 20:319-327.

Arrignon J, 1981. L’écrevisse et son élevage. Paris, France: Gauthier-Villars, 178 pp.

Brinck P, 1975. Crayfish in Sweden. Freshwater Crayfish, 2:77-85.

Burgess SA; Bider JR, 1980. Effects of stream habitat improvement on invertebrates, trout populations, and mink activity. Journal of Wildlife Management, 44(4):871-880.

Cukerzis JM, 1984. The biology of the crayfish Astacus astacus. Paris, France: INRA Publications.

Cukerzis JM; Holdich DM; Lowery RS, 1988. Astacus astacus in Europe. In: Holdich DM, ed. Freshwater-crayfish:-biology,-management-and-exploitation. London; UK: Croom Helm Ltd., 309-340.

Cukerzis JM; Shestokas J; Terentvev AL, 1979. Methods for accelerated artificial breeding of crayfish juveniles. Freshwater Crayfish, 5:451-458.

Erlinge S, 1972. Interspecific relations between otter Lutra lutra and mink Mustela vison in Sweden. Oikos, 23:327-335.

Gerrell R, 1967. Food selection in relation to habitat in mink (Mustela vison Schreber) in Sweden. Oikos, 18:233-246.

Gydemo R, 1989. Reproduction and growth in the noble crayfish Astacus astacus L. PhD thesis, University of Stockholm, Sweden.

Hessen D; Skurdal J, 1986. Analysis of food utilized by the crayfish Astacus astacus in Lake Steinsfjorden, SE Norway. Freshwater Crayfish 6: 187-193.

Hessen DO, 1989. Factors determining the nutritive status and production of zooplankton in a humic lake. J. Plankton Res., 11(4):649-664.

Hessen Do; Taugbol T; Fjeld E; Skurdal J, 1987. Egg development and life-cycle timing in the noble crayfish (Astacus-astacus). Aquaculture, 64(1):77-82.

Hogger JB, 1988. Ecology, population biology, and behaviour. In: Holdich DM, Lowery RS, eds. Freshwater Crayfish. Biology, Management and Exploitation. London, Portland: Croom Helm Ltd., 114-144, 424-479.

Holdich DM; Rogers WD; Reynolds JD, 1999. Native and alien crayfish in the British Isles. In: Gherardi F, Holdich DM, eds. Crayfish in Europe as Alien Species. Crustacean Issues 11. Rotterdam: AA Balkema, 221-242.

Huner JV; Henttonen P; Lindqvist OV, 1991. Observations of noble crayfish, Astacus astacus L., population from a pond in central Finland to several years of exploitation. Freshwater Crayfish 7: 81-89.

Huner JV; Lindqvist OV, 1988. Response of a slow-growing noble crayfish, Astacus astacus L., population from a pond in central Finland to several years of exploitation. Freshwater Crayfish, 7:81-89.

IUCN, 2009. IUCN red list of threatened species. IUCN red list of threatened species. unpaginated.

Keller M, 1988. Finding a profitable population density in rearing summerlings of European crayfish Astacus astacus L. In: Goedlin de Tiefenau P, ed. Freshwater Crayfish 7. Lausanne, Switzerland: Musee Zoologique Cantonal, pp. 259-266.

Laanetu N, 1998. Prevalence of crayfish (Astacus astacus) in Estonia on the basis of nutritional analysis of otter (Lutra lutra) and mink (Mustela vison). In: Taugbøl T, ed. Nordic-Baltic Workshop on Freshwater Crayfish research and Management. Lillehammer, Norway: OF Report No. 26/1998, Easter Norway Research Institute, 127-140.

Lindqvist OV; Lahti E, 1983. On the sexual dimorphism and condition index in the crayfish Astacus astacus in Finland. Freshwater Crayfish 5:3-11.

Mackeviciene; G, 1999. A comparative study of physiological and biochemical indices of native European and alien species of crayfish in Lithuania. Freshwater Crayfish, 12: 205-220.

Prowazek S, 1902. Ein Beitrag zur Krebsspermatogenese. Zeitschrift fur Wissenschaftliche Zoologie, 71:445-456.

Pursiainen M; Erkamo E, 1991. Low temperatures as limiting factor for the noble crayfish (Astacus astacus) populations. Finnish Fisheries Research, 12:179-185.

Pursiainen M; Saarela M; Westman K, 1989. Moulting and growth of the noble crayfish Astacus astacus in an oligotrophic lake. Freshwater Crayfish, 7:155-164.

Skurdal J; Taugbl T, 2002. Astacus. Biology of freshwater crayfish, 467-510.

Skurdal J; Taugbl T; Fjeld E; Hessen DO; Håstein T, 1988. Thelohania contejeani Henneguy parasitizing the noble crayfish, Astacus astacus L., in Norway. Journal of Fish Diseases, 11(5):433-435.

Spitz R, 1973. Crayfish in Austria, history and actual situation. Freshwater Crayfish, 1: 9-14.

Svärdson G, 1972. The predatory impact of eel (Anguilla anguilla L.) on a population of crayfish (Astacus astavus L.). Rep. Inst. Freshw. Res. Drottningholm, 52:149-151.

Taugbøl T; Skurdal J; Burba A, 1998. Freshwater Crayfish in Lithuania I: Action Plan for Crayfish Management. II: Status report. ØF Report 1998/12. Lillehammer, Norway: Eastern Norway Research Institute.

Welcomme RL, 1988. International introductions of inland aquatic species. FAO Fisheries Technical Paper, No. 294:x + 318 pp.

Westin L; Gydemo R, 1986. Influence of light and temperature on reproduction and moulting frequency in the crayfish, Astacus astacus. Aquaculture, 52:43-50.

Westman K, 1991. The crayfish fishery in Finland - its past, present and future. Finnish Fisheries Research, 14:187-216.

Westman K, 1992. Management of the noble crayfish Asyacus astacus (L.) and the signal crayfish Pacifastacus leniusculus (Dana) in Finland. Finnish Fisheries Research, 14:19-51.

Westman K; Ackefors H; Nylund C, 1992. Crayfish. Biology, Aquaculture and Harvest. Stockholm, Sweden: Kiviksgarden.

Wickins; JF; Lee; DO’C, 2002. Crustacean farming. Ranching and culture. Second edition. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Science.

Distribution References

CABI, Undated. Compendium record. Wallingford, UK: CABI

CABI, Undated a. CABI Compendium: Status as determined by CABI editor. Wallingford, UK: CABI

Cukerzis J M, 1988. Astacus astacus in Europe. In: Freshwater crayfish: biology, management and exploitation. [ed. by Holdich DM, Lowery RS]. London, UK: Croom Helm Ltd. 309-340.

Holdich DM, Rogers WD, Reynolds JD, 1999. Native and alien crayfish in the British Isles. In: Crayfish in Europe as Alien Species. Crustacean Issues, 11 [ed. by Gherardi F, Holdich DM]. Rotterdam, AA Balkema. 221-242.

Skurdal J, Taugbøl T, 2002. Astacus. In: Biology of freshwater crayfish. [ed. by Holdich D M]. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Science. 467-510.


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

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