In this Encyclopedia of Life podcast, Ari Daniel Shapiro describes the long, strange trip of the red swamp crawfish—from Louisiana bayous to European waterways to Chinese rice paddies.
Strategies for Using this Encyclopedia of Life Podcast in Your Classroom
  • Have students write down terms they are unfamiliar with while listening to the podcast. If students are following the podcast with the transcript (second slide), have them circle or highlight unfamiliar words. After listening, use the “Vocabulary” tab to define some of them as a group.
  • Before listening to the podcast, give older students world map handouts or have them look at the world view on our MapMaker Interactive. Locate North America or Louisiana as a class. While listening to the podcast, have students use their maps to find other places the red swamp crawfish now thrives. (Countries and regions in four continents are mentioned in the podcast: Spain, Scandinavia, and France in Europe; Costa Rica in North America; Kenya and Nigeria in Africa; and Japan and China in Asia.)
  • After listening to the podcast, consult the “Questions” tab for discussion questions.
  1. Red swamp crawfish are indigenous to the freshwater bayous of Louisiana. They are an introduced species elsewhere in the United States, as well as Europe, Africa, and Asia. What have been some positive consequences of the red swamp crawfish industry in Louisiana? In the rest of the world?

    • Answer

      Answers will vary! The red swamp crawfish industry has had positive consequences for the health, culture, and economy of many regions, as well as the environment.
      The red swamp crawfish is part of a healthy diet for many people in Louisiana and throughout the world. 
      Cooking with crawfish is an important part of the cultural heritage of Louisiana’s Cajun community, inspiring festivals, cookbooks, and even songs. Cajun culture helps drive a powerful tourism industry in Louisiana.
      The introduction of the red swamp crawfish also established or re-established the crawfish industry in many areas. Crawfish are harvested not just as food for people, but for animals as well. Crawfish fisheries employ thousands of people—such as fishers, manufacturers of infrastructure such as boats and traps, sales representatives, chefs and other restaurant personnel. 
      Red swamp crawfish are also an important part of the food web. According to Rusty Gaude, who works with Louisiana Sea Grant and is the central expert interviewed in the podcast, native birds and mammals have come to rely on native and non-native crawfish for food.

  2. What are some negative consequences of the red swamp crawfish industry in Louisiana and around the world?

    • Answer

      Red swamp crawfish can severely damage the environment to which they are introduced. The podcast explains how their burrows weaken earthen dikes and levees, creating a series of holes through which water can leak out. 
      In addition, red swamp crawfish are voracious eaters. “They will go into a partially vegetated area,” says Gaude, “and they will strip it clean.” An area “stripped clean” of native vegetation cannot support a healthy population of herbivores, vital to the food web. Wetlands without grasses are also much more likely to erode, contributing to flooding in the area.
      The introduction of red swamp crawfish into China has had negative economic consequences on the red swamp crawfish fishery in Louisiana. China exports red swamp crawfish at half the price of Louisiana red swamp crawfish. “It has literally changed the industry,” Gaude says.


swampy backwater of a river or lake.


to go completely around something (usually the Earth).


crustacean resembling a small lobster. Also called a crawdad or crayfish.


type of animal (an arthropod) with a hard shell and segmented body that usually lives in the water.


industry or occupation of harvesting fish, either in the wild or through aquaculture.


having to do with a habitat or ecosystem of a lake, river, or spring.

introduced species

a species that does not naturally occur in an area. Also called alien, exotic, or non-native species.

rice paddy

rice field.


body of water that serves as a route for transportation.