Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Astacus leptodactylus
(Danube crayfish)



Astacus leptodactylus (Danube crayfish)


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

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Astacus leptodactylus (Danube crayfish); adult.
CaptionAstacus leptodactylus (Danube crayfish); adult.
Copyright©Ullrich Muhlhoff/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 3.0
Astacus leptodactylus (Danube crayfish); adult.
AdultAstacus leptodactylus (Danube crayfish); adult.©Ullrich Muhlhoff/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 3.0


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Astacus leptodactylus Eschscholtz, 1823

Preferred Common Name

  • Danube crayfish

Other Scientific Names

  • Pontastacus cubanicus Birstein & Winogradow, 1934
  • Pontastacus leptodactylus Eschscholtz, 1823

International Common Names

  • English: narrow-clawed crayfish; Turkish crayfish


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There is considerable interest in the aquaculture of the narrow-clawed crayfish, Astacus leptodactylus, due to high demand and its high market price. Live A. leptodactylus have been imported from Turkey for many years. Koksal (1988) describes its culture in Turkey and Harlioglu (2004) recently commented on its current status in Turkey. This species is also cultured in many eastern European countries and is stocked in many areas in Belgium, Switzerland and France. A. leptodactylus is also cultured in some farms in northern and Central Italy. In the UK, A. leptodactylus were introduced mainly for the restaurant trade, but as far as is known are not farmed to any extent. According to Holdich (2000), escapes have occurred in the wild where large, harvestable populations exist.

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 leptodactylus


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Astacus leptodactylus generally reach a total length of 150 mm (and up to 170 mm in males) but have been known to be up to 300 mm. They are known to live for more than 10 years. In females, maturity is reached at 3-5 years and 75-83 mm. Egg size is 2.2-3.3 mm. A. leptodactylus are recognizable from their long and narrow claws. The upper surface of the claws is rough and the underside is the same colour as the body. Although body shape and colour tend to vary, they are generally olive-green or yellowish to brown with a slight red tinge. The carapace, claws and walking legs may be mottled. The ventral side of the body is white; the carapace may be wide or narrow, the sides of which are covered with spines which vary in number. The carapace has two pairs of post-orbital ridges behind the eyes. The rostrum is long and pointed, the basal part of which has toothed margins. The sides of the thorax are rough. The chelae of males is usually longer than that of females, although short chelae have been observed in some males.


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A. leptodactylus has a southeastern distribution and was originally distributed in an area corresponding to Turkey, the Ukraine, Turkmenia and southwestern Russia, and also in Iran, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Belarus, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary. The original distribution area also included the Caspian Sea, the Black Sea and the lower and middle Danube, along with the lower reaches of the rivers Don, Dniester and Volga and their tributaries (Koksal, 1988; Holdich et al., 1999). As a result of transplantation and natural spreading, A. leptodactylus has expanded both in the western and northern direction and today is found in 29 countries, having been introduced into 14 of them. It has been introduced into the Czech Republic, Poland, Germany, Lithuania, Latvia and Finland, as well as to Denmark, the Netherlands and England. Stocks of this species are also present in France, Switzerland, Austria, Spain and Italy. Except in England (Holdich et al., 1999), the widespread occurrence of A. leptodactylus in Europe has not caused any environmental 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


Georgia (Republic of)PresentNativeSkurdal and Taugb<o>l , 2002
IranPresentNativeSkurdal and Taugb<o>l , 2002
KazakhstanPresentNativeSkurdal and Taugb<o>l , 2002
TurkeyPresentNativeKöksal , 1988
TurkmenistanPresentNativeSkurdal and Taugb<o>l , 2002


AustriaPresentNativeSkurdal and Taugb<o>l , 2002
BelarusPresentNativeSkurdal and Taugb<o>l , 2002
BelgiumPresentIntroducedSkurdal and Taugb<o>l , 2002
BulgariaPresentNativeSkurdal and Taugb<o>l , 2002
CroatiaPresentNativeSkurdal and Taugb<o>l , 2002
Czech RepublicPresentIntroducedSkurdal and Taugb<o>l , 2002
DenmarkPresentIntroducedSkurdal and Taugb<o>l , 2002
FinlandPresentIntroducedSkurdal and Taugb<o>l , 2002
FrancePresentIntroducedSkurdal and Taugb<o>l , 2002
GermanyPresentIntroducedSkurdal and Taugb<o>l , 2002
GreecePresentNativeSkurdal and Taugb<o>l , 2002
HungaryPresentNativeSkurdal and Taugb<o>l , 2002
ItalyPresentIntroducedSkurdal and Taugb<o>l , 2002
LatviaPresentIntroducedSkurdal and Taugb<o>l , 2002
LithuaniaPresentIntroducedSkurdal and Taugb<o>l , 2002
NetherlandsPresentIntroducedSkurdal and Taugb<o>l , 2002
PolandPresentIntroducedSkurdal and Taugb<o>l , 2002
RomaniaPresentNativeSkurdal and Taugb<o>l , 2002
Russian FederationPresentNativeSkurdal and Taugb<o>l , 2002
SlovakiaPresentNativeSkurdal and Taugb<o>l , 2002
SpainPresentIntroducedSkurdal and Taugb<o>l , 2002
SwitzerlandPresentIntroducedSkurdal and Taugb<o>l , 2002
UKPresentIntroduced Invasive Holdich , 2000
UkrainePresentNativeSkurdal and Taugb<o>l , 2002

Invasive Species Threats

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


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Bagot P, 1996. Turkish crayfish production. Crayfish News, 19(1):13.

Bagot P, 2000. Turkish crayfish harvesting. Crayfish News, 22(1):6.

Cherkashina NY; belyaeva V; Karpenko V; Tevyashkova O; Glushko E; Poroshina E, 1999. The state of populations of Pontastacus cubanicus (Birstein and Winagrodaw, 1934) in the water bodies of the lower Don (Russia). Freshwater Crayfish, 12:643-654.

Cukerzis J, 1968. Interspecific relations between Astacus astacus L. and A. leptodactylus Esch. Ekologia Polska, Ser. A., 16:629-636.

Cukerzis JM, 1988. Astacus astacus in Europe. Freshwater crayfish: biology, management and exploitation., 309-340.

Gürel A; Patir B, 2001. Meat yield and chemical quality of crayfish (Astacus leptodactylus ESCH., 1823) in Keban Dam Lake. Veteriner Bilimleri Dergisi, 17(2):23-30.

Harlioglu MM, 2004. The present situation of freshwater crayfish, Astacus leptodactylus (Eschscholtz, 1823) in Turkey. Aquaculture, 230(1/4):181-187.

Harlioglu MM; Köprücü K; Özdemir Y, 2002. The effect of dietary vitamin E on the pleopodal egg number of Astacus leptodactylus (Eschscholtz, 1823). Aquaculture International, 10(5):391-397.

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, 2000. The introduction of alien crayfish species into Britain for commercial production - an own goal? Crustacean Issues, 12:85-97.

Holdich DM; Ackefors H; Gherardi F; Rogers WD; Skurdal J, 1999. Native and alien crayfish in Europe: some conclusions. In: Gheradi F, Holdich DM, eds. Crayfish in Europe as Alien Species. How to Make the Best of a Bad Situation? Brookfield, Rotterdam: AA Balkema, 281-291.

Holdich DM; Harlioglu MM; Firkins I, 1997. Salinity adaptations of crayfish in British waters with particular reference to Austropotamobius pallipes, Astacus leptodactylus and Pacifastacus leniusculus. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 44:147-154.

Jarvenpaa T; Ilmarinen P, 1995. Artificial incubation of crayfish eggs on moving tray. Freshwater Crayfish, 8:716.

Kossakowski J, 1964. Coexistence of Astacus astacus (L.) and Astacus leptodactylus Esch. in Loby Lake. Roczniki Nauk Rolniczych, 84B-2:431-455.

Köksal G, 1988. Astacus leptodactylus in Europe. Freshwater crayfish: biology, management and exploitation., 365-400.

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.

Nezami S, 1997. Crayfish in Iran. Crayfish News, 19(2):7.

Silver D; Cukerzis JM, 1964. The number of chromosomes in Astacus leptodactylus. Tsitologiya, 6:631-633.

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

Sokolsky A; Ushivtsev V; Mikouiza AS; Kalmikov E, 1999. Influence of sea level fluctuations on wild crayfish populations in the Caspian Sea. Freshwater Crayfish, 12:655-664.

Tsukerzis YA, 1976. Interspecific competition of closely allied crayfish species (Astacus astacus L., A. leptodactylus Esch., Pacifastacus leniusculus Dana, Decapoda, Crustacea). Doklady (Proc) Academy of Science USSR (Biol Sci), 229:283-285.


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

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