A unique species of crayfish that lives only around Fort Campbell has been officially recognized by the scientific community. But already, the crustacean seems to be facing challenges in its habitat.
Researchers from Austin Peay State University recently had their findings published in the Journal of Crustacean Biology.
This rare creature has been named the Screaming Eagle crayfish — a reference to the 101st Airborne Division, which makes its home at Fort Campbell and goes by the nickname "Screaming Eagles."
The crayfish's scientific name, Faxonius bellator, also nods to the soldiers:
"That bellator portion translates to 'warrior,' " says Rebecca Blanton Johansen, assistant biology professor at Austin Peay State University.
Johansen says a colleague had tipped her off about a rare kind of crayfish hanging out in Clarksville that normally would be found in a different river system. She was intrigued and put Erin Bloom on the hunt. Bloom was a grad student at the time and now teaches biology at Volunteer State Community College.
"I really wanted to solve it and kind of figure out, what exactly was going on in these streams and why were they finding crayfish look like something that shouldn't really be there," Bloom says.
Turns out, this was a different species altogether, one that had never been identified before. And it lives in only four locations: three streams inside Fort Campbell and one at Billy Dunlop Park in Clarksville.
But Johansen says they noticed a problem over the course of collecting data. At Billy Dunlop Park, the Screaming Eagle crayfish seems to be disappearing.
Their habitat, this stream, is likely being polluted by runoff from agriculture and development in Clarksville, Johansen says. This could end up in our drinking water.
"The bigger picture behind all of this is that it's a signal to us that something is wrong with the habitat that they live in," she says. "They're like canaries in the coal mine."
So if the Screaming Eagle Crayfish aren't doing well, human health may be jeopardized too.