Saving threatened habitats worldwide

Enormous prawn found at REGUA

31 May, 2016 - 11:06 -- World Land Trust
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Pitu Macrobrachium carcinus. Credit: Adilei Carvalho da Cunha, REGUA

A prawn of lobster proportions, Macrobrachium carcinus, was caught in the Guapiaçu Reserve last week.

This tortoiseshell creature, known locally as the Pitu, is one of the largest species of freshwater prawns, known to reach 12 inches (30 centimetres) in length and up to 850 grams in weight.

The Pitu is considered important economically, as it is commercially fished in northern and north eastern Brazil, but Nicholas Locke, President of Reserva Ecológica de Guapiaçu (REGUA), WLT’s conservation partner in Brazil, has reported that they aren’t often seen in the Guapiaçu river due to overfishing.

Nicholas said “Most of the locals talk wistfully about this fresh water crustacean as many of the streams within the Guapiaçu watershed close to small villages have been fished out.   The days of big fish in the rivers have become a thing of the past.

“So when an example of this species that feeds exclusively on small fish, insects and leaf litter is found it is a source of much entertainment in the local villages.”

Pitu ecology

Although the Pitu is widely distributed from Florida southwards to southern Brazil and is not considered under threat by the IUCN, it is locally threatened in the Atlantic Forest. Finding this specimen is an indicator of high water quality in the Guapiaçu river, which is an important water supply for the surrounding community.

The individual found was particularly large, which usually indicates a highly aggressive male most likely in control of a large territory, in shaded areas of aquatic plants and rocks.

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More information

The Atlantic Forest habitat REGUA protects is bursting with biodiversity from a wide diversity of woodland types, but is under threat from illegal logging, land clearance for agriculture and urban development.


Submitted by Dominic Belfield on

I do hope this poor old beastie is not the last of his kind, him having ended up on the fishmongers slab (looks like).

Does anyone have any idea if there may be others lurking in the depths of the river systems Regua is helping to protect? I do hope so.

Is there any chance that we could encourage a 'catch-and-release' habit among the locals until prawn numbers get back to some kind of robustness?

It always seems such a crying shame to me when spectacular fish get hoiked out and paraded - dead - with such glee... You can only hope that there's some who got away.

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