The Anatomy of a Crawfish


NEW ORLEANS — Now we all love to eat crawfish, but many of us don’t know what makes their little bodies so unique.

WGNO’s Kenny Lopez takes a look at the Anatomy of a Crawfish.

Zack Lemman with the Audubon Nature Institute is fascinated with the anatomy of a crawfish. He wants you to learn a thing or two about these tiny crustaceans’ bodies before you chow down on them.

“Crawfish are members of a group of crustaceans called decapods, which means they have ten legs. They don’t use all their legs for walking because their first two are their claws. The claws of crawfish are in fact their two front legs,” he said.

From their head to their tails and the claws in between, their features are quite unique.

“Crawfish don’t really have a brain. They have something that’s like a primitive nervous system. When you suck on their heads you aren’t getting any of that,” Lemman said.

Crawfish also react well to movement. Their eyes move independently of each other.

“They also have little structures under their abdomen called swimmerets and they use those to swim away. They use their fan-like structures at the end of their abdomen to curl their tail, they do this jerkily to escape predators,” he said.

There’s also a way to tell the difference between the male and female crawfish. The males have little leg-like structures called gonopods, and the females do not.

Male or female—doesn’t matter they both are delicious after boiled and spiced to perfection. According to Lemman, there is one part of the crawfish you may want to avoid.

“That brown line that is at the end of their digestive system, a lot of people like to remove that from the tail, yes that is where the waste goes,” Lemman said.

So next time you are with your family and friends at a crawfish boil, now you can amaze them with your cranium for crustaceans.

Zack also tells us fossil records for crawfish date back 150 million years.

Louisiana is home to 30 different species of crawfish and the United States is home to 350 species.

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