Crayfish and Crayfish Symbionts

Bronwyn Williams (Curator) conducts research on crayfishes and two groups of crayfish symbionts, branchiobdellidans and entocytherid ostracods. She is interested in the ecology and evolution of each group of organisms independently as well as in a host-symbiont community context. Branchiobdellidans, more commonly referred to as crayfish worms, comprise an order of leech-like annelid worms that are obligate ectosymbionts of crustaceans, primarily astacoidean (Northern Hemisphere) crayfishes. Ostracods of the family Entocytheridae are tiny crustaceans that also exhibit an obligate relationship with their crustacean hosts, including astacoidean and parastacoidean (Southern Hemisphere) crayfishes. Bronwyn’s research has largely focused on the Pacific Northwest, Intermountain West, and Interior Plains regions of North America, but several current collaborations are expanding the scope of investigation to include the Southeastern U.S., the global center of diversity for crayfishes, branchiobdellidans, and entocytherids. Bronwyn uses an integrative approach, combining methods from several disciplines, and working with a wide variety of data types. Of particular interest is the merging of molecular and morphometric methods to examine historical and contemporary dynamics within and among crayfish and symbiont species and communities. This approach makes extensive use of museum specimens, including those housed in the Crustacean collection at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.