18 Dec 2006

The Dragon Cray

Dear Blue Lobster:

Does Taiwan have crayfish, or Asia, for that matter? If so, what kind?

I'm planning a trip to Asia for a year, will be giving my crays to someone else but plan to carry on the hobby if they have crays there. I'd bring the crays along but of course that wouldn't be allowed.

I'd heard they have "the dragon cray", sixteen inches in length, three-clawed, spiked tail and firy red. But I'm not sure if this is just a myth.


Dear Gentle Sir:

Asia is home to a wide variety of cray species, most of which have yet to be scientifically described but are incredibly diverse and, in some cases, unlike any other species in the world.

Japan's national invertebrate is Cambaroides japonicus, the Japanese Crayfish. Usually an unassuming greenish-brown, it only reaches four centimeters in length and is one of the quicker crayfish in the world. It is closely related to Korea's own national invertebrate, Cambaroides similis, the Korean Crayfish.

Also in Japan was Ebirah, an ancient lobster relative that reached lengths of six meters and tooled around the shallows in search of beached marine life. It's theorized that it could use sound to stun prey underwater, but without a completely intact carapace this remains unknown. It also inspired Godzilla's foe in ゴジラ・エビラ・モスラ 南海の大決闘 (1966).

Taiwan, sadly, is without native cray species. The Rusty Crayfish (Orconectes rusticus) and the Signal Cray (Pacifastacus leniusculus) have both infested Taiwanese waters in what is thought to be an attempt by the People's Republic of China to weaken the tiny island nation's ecology. One can find shops and cafes offering steamed, boiled, or fried 小龍蝦 (soei leng-hei, or "little lobsters") all over cosmopolitan Taiwan.

The Dragon Cray is an unidentified member of the Cambroides genus that lives in the warm rivers and lakes of southern Chine and reaches up to sixteen inches in length. It is bright red and during its mating phase it shows bright blue mottling along its carapace and claws. Allusions to a pointed tale are probably incidental descriptions of the cray folding its tail-fins, while the third claw is completely mythical but has parallels seen in Chinese mythology.

The PRC has strict policies regarding even the study of native cray and crustacean species and a so-called Bamboo Curtain has fallen, making scientific cooperation with Chinese institutions strained. If visiting China, don't expect observation of the Dragon Cray or any other species.

Have a great trip otherwise, and bring back some pictures to share with us!


Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Blue Lobster,

I have been a Crustace-phile for over 30 years and I have never heard of this mysterious Dragon Cray before. Do you have a photograph you could share with the rest of us who have been deprived the pleasure of meeting such a beautiful creature?

I'm a big fan of yours, please keep updating as often as you can!


Anonymous said...

Dear Gentle Sir:

I am in contact with friends who travel to China regularly about getting some pictures of the Dragon Cray (as well as some other species). It is possible in the near future that I may be able to post these.

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