Episode One: The Crayfish Blues

Welcome to About South. Each week we talk to the folks who create, curate, and critique southern cultures. Ultimately, along with our guests, we consider three questions: What is the South? Is it real? And what’s so special about it?

In this episode we explore the mystery of the blue crayfish.

The Florida blue crayfish in its natural habitat in Petco.

In several pet stores across the globe, customers can find for sale a “electric” blue crayfish. Many websites describe the blue crayfish as endemic to Florida and claim these blue crustaceans are members of the species Procambarus alleni or Procambarus paeninsulanis.

Before buying a crayfish companion, though, we wanted to see if we could find one in the wild in order to understand more about this seemingly special Floridian. We reached out to several scholars and pet purveyors, hoping experts might be able to direct us to a location in Florida where we might catch a glimpse of the blue crayfish in its natural habitat.

However, our search yielded few answers and many more questions. After several false starts and dead ends, we began to wonder if the blue crayfish existed at all. Then, we paid a visit to the local Petco where we were able to see a blue crayfish in-person.

But still, the question lingered: if the blue crayfish exists, why couldn’t we find anyone who knows where it lives in Florida?

Searching for a blue crayfish in the wild brings up questions of authenticity, consumption, spectacle culture, and those things we might think of as exceptionally southern.

We would like to thank our special guest, Lindsey Eckert. Additionally, we would like to thank the Florida Department of Natural Resources, the folks at Silver Springs State Park, Dr. Bill Pine at the University of Florida, Dr. Chris Taylor and Rachel Vinsel of the Prairie Research Institute of the Illinois Natural History Survey, Dr. Leo Nico of the U.S. Geological Survey, Dr. Keith Crandall of the Department of Biological Sciences at George Washington University, Post-Doctoral Associate Jesse Breinholt of the Florida Museum of Natural History, the folks at PetSolutions, and the generous Instagram users who hashtag under “bluecrayfish.”

Last, but certainly not least, we would like to thank Dr. Jim Stoeckel of the School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences and Dr. Brian Helms of the Department of Biological Sciences at Auburn University.

If you would like to learn more about researching, protecting, and appreciating aquatic life, particularly crayfish, please visit Auburn University’s School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences.

Live from Instagram, #bluecrayfish:

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