12 Jan 2004

Largest Cray Ever Found?

Dear Blue Lobster:

I read that one of the largest crayfish ever found was 90lbs and 6 feet long. They found it in Louisiana in 1934 and named it Old Papa Spice. They did not say, but I assume it would be a Red Swamp cray since they are native to that area. Does anyone know if this is true? If anyone has any info on this please email me. It sounds crazy, but I dont know why it would be made up.

Thanks, Daniel

Dear Gentle Sir:

Crayfish come in all sizes, some no larger than the top knuckle of your pinky and some larger than your average lapdog. Of course no one cares about the smallest ones when there are real monsters creeping around the dark corners of the world. Through time there have been some very large crayfish indeed, so let's look at a few examples of record-breaking crays.

Ol' Papa Épicé astounded Louisiana in 1934, but let's not forget that for publicity's sake the accepted measurement of 6 feet included his antennae. More accurate reports claim that the actual length from head to tail was 3 feet, 4 inches and weight was somewhere around 30lbs. Nonetheless these numbers are impressive since no other American cray reaches anywhere near these proportions. Since the species was never recorded doubts of authenticity suggest that the cray may have been a marine lobster introduced into a brackish swamp pool. DNA testing of the carapace has been inconclusive thus far.

In Borneo during World War II another creature waved its gargantuan claws into history. Bagaton (Kadazan-Dusun for big jar) was found by Australian marines patrolling swamps. Measuring an amazing 4 feet, 2 inches and weighing 49lbs, Bagaton resembled marine lobsters from that region of the world but was caught in a freshwater pool. Taxonomists theorize that Bagaton is a marine species that had re-adapted to fresh water within the last several millennia. Again, lack of further scientific testing leaves us with more questions than answers, though the Bagaton corpse is still in relatively good condition for future research.

Prehistoric crayfish and lobsters handily beat today's record-holders for size and weight. Cruising the warm, shallow seas millions of years ago we find several bizarre specimens. The Anomalocarids, ancient crustaceans with pincer-like appendages and flexible body armor, actively swam and hunted food. Some species grew to lengths of five feet. Meganychus grew to lengths of eight feet and featured a set of claws that spanned four feet when fully splayed! Another genus, Gigaeurys, was almost as long as it was wide (six feet) and is thought to have been an evolutionary dead end that was as closely related to crabs as it was to true lobsters and crays.

Other, even larger, prehistoric fossils found off the coast of Japan inspired myths of the Ebirah, a giant sea monster that guarded an island of treasure from the outside world. Thanks to the myths and the fossil species, this 20 foot long primitive lobster relative, thought to be capable of vocalizations meant to stun prey, eventually found its way into cinema in the 1966 Toho masterpiece Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster. Sadly for crustaceanists everywhere Godzilla made short work of the giant lobster champion with his atomic breath.