So I'm walking peacefully down from the Ravine, and I start to cross the Music Pagoda Bridge, and...this...baby lobster thing...stands in my path, waving its one arm/claw and scuttling menacingly. The entire scene was very reminiscent of King Arthur's encounter with the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.*
A companion and I, unnerved by the creature and moved by its amputee's plight, lean in for a closer look, upon which it flips over, squirts, and thrashes. Whoa, there, little buddy! Having ruled out its being a crayfish (since the crayfish of my youthful stream explorations were tiny, beige, and found in icy swift-running streams), we ponder how the hell a seriously undersized lobster has found its way onto a bridge. Figuring it to be a doomed salt-water specimen, we consign it to the stream for a more dignified aquatic end (it lies on the stream bed shaking its fist, er, claw, weakly up at us), and then we examine nearby garbage middens for dishes of drawn butter or other clues. Baffled, we depart.
A quick Internet excursion later, I am humbled to report that my fierce crustacean encounter has been with, yes, a crayfish--a Red Swamp, or Louisiana, Crayfish, Procambarus clarkii, native to the Southeast U.S. and, yes, the kind you eat. (Although this guy had clearly aged out of the "popcorn" division.) They are reported to be able to cross miles of dry ground, and this fish blogger has seen them travel overland between the ponds at the Prospect Park Zoo. (This is a staggeringly exquisite use of the Internet, isn't it--pinpointing species behavior within half a mile?) They can grow five inches long and live for five years.
And there's more to these guys than good eatin', ma chere (although they are farm-raised by the zillion down south). In some places, like Kenya, they've been turned loose to devour the snails that cause schistosomiasis. (Red swamp crayfish are carnivorous, and also enjoy tadpoles and insect larvae.) In other areas, they're an invasive pest, burrowing into levees and rice paddies. In Japan, according to the University of Michigan zoology site, they were introduced as food for bullfrogs and are now "a common family pet all over the main island."
Here in Brooklyn, perhaps we could weaponize them--channel their aggression into security apps of some kind.
Now stand aside, worthy adversary.
'Tis but a scratch.
A scratch? Your arm's off!
No, it isn't.
Well, what's that, then?
I've had worse.
Come on, you pansy!