Warragul Burrowing Crayfish

Engaeus sternalis

The Warragul Burrowing Crayfish belongs to a group of specialised crustaceans known as burrowing crayfish. Its distribution is limited to about 20 km² between Labertouche and Nilma. It is thought to be one of the rarest species of burrowing crayfish in the world. There are nine species of burrowing crayfish in West Gippsland, five of them are endemic and have special protection.

The Warragul Burrowing Crayfish is often referred to as being ‘ghost -like’ because of its pale, creamy-white hues but also because up until 2011, it was elusive and only known to inhabit a small stretch of several kilometres of creekbank along Wattle and Labertouche Creeks in Labertouche. This species was originally collected from the “Warragul district” in 1889 and scientifically described in 1936 by Ellen Clark. However, it was not recorded again from Warragul until scientists stumbled across it in 2011 while searching for the Giant Gippsland Earthworm, another famous Gippslander!

Due to their small range and many threats that lead to habitat loss, Warragul Burrowing Crayfish have special protection in Victoria and are listed under Victoria’s Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1998. This means they are in need of conservation actions to help stop their decline.

The Warragul Burrowing Crayfish belongs to a group of crayfish called terrestrial or land crayfish because they rarely inhabit open waters. Instead, they spend most of their lives on land in underground winding burrows. While they are related to “yabbies” (smooth shelled crayfish that live in dams and open water) they belong to a different genus Engaeus.

The Warragul Burrowing Crayfish build burrows in a variety of moist habitats often floodplains. The chimneys of the burrows are made of small balls of soil with a narrow burrow entrance.

Information from: https://www.burrowingcrayfish.com.au/warragul-burrowing-crayfish.htm