Long chase ends as scientists claw their way to new yabby
A new species of yabby has been formally named and described after 15 years of field research.
Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research scientist Tarmo Raadik, who led the discovery with Robert McCormack from the Australian Aquatic Biological, said he had heard rumours about the species since the 1990s.
‘‘We’d heard rumours from landholders and river-users that there was a different and larger yabby living in the Barmah Forest,’’ he said.
‘‘Little did we know it would take so long to track it down.’’
Dr Raadik was first brought an exoskeleton belonging to the larger freshwater crayfish from the Lake Nillahcootie area in 1993 and has continued to chase rumours of sightings ever since.
When Dr Raadik’s research partner Mr McCormack finally found a live swamp yabby, they were able to begin comparing the new species to others.
‘‘The main difference really were the claws,’’ he said.
‘‘They were very, very large and very, very wide.
‘‘There’s also a spine that grows out on top of the eyes compared to the normal yabbies.’’
The newly-discovered species, Cherax latimanus, commonly known as the swamp yabby, is found in clay soil burrows in the Goulburn, Broken and Ovens river catchments.
‘‘You’ve got major towns like Wangaratta, Shepparton and Nagambie, and there’s a lot of people living on farms all over the place,’’ Dr Raadik said.
‘‘This yabby is quietly living underground below them all, and it hasn’t been properly discovered until now.’’
Now that the swamp yabby has been formally documented, Dr Raadik said the species could be taken into consideration when regulating waterways in the area.
‘‘The important thing about our work is that now this animal has a valid scientific name,’’ he said.
‘‘Now we can do more work to ensure that it’s not threatened.’’