"I think it's one of the most beautiful crayfish," study author Christian Lukhaup told The Post. "It's very striking."
Lukhaup actually came across this crayfish more than a decade ago, via a photograph sent by a friend who had been collecting crayfish on New Guinea. He later found live examples of the crayfish in pet shops, as the creature was being sold in Japan and Europe.
Slowly, Lukhaup connected with locals in Southeast Asia to learn more about the animal. But it took many years to finish his research work, in part because it wasn't clear from where, exactly, it originated.
"If you look at the map, you don't find the name of creeks on the map," he said. "It's not easy to find."
Finally Lukhaup, who also helped identify vampire crabs for the first time, was able to pinpoint the colorful crayfish to the Hoa Creek in West Papau, which is part of Indonesia. Lukhaup said he recently received confirmation that the pulcher also lives in another nearby creek.
The pulcher's shape and colors differ from other crayfish in the Cherax subgenus, which are found in West Papua, Papua New Guinea and Australia, Lukhaup wrote in the paper. The males described in the paper have a total length of about three to almost four inches. The females were slightly shorter.
The bold coloring is more common among the male crayfish, Lukhaup said.
Lukhaup writes that people collect the pulcher for sale as part of the global aquarium trade. But he said the bigger threat to the newly described species is its popularity as a food item for people across the island; pollution is also a concern.
"According to local collectors in the area and the city of Sorong, the populations of the species have been decreasing in the last few years," Lukhaup writes. "Clearly, the continued collection of these crayfish for the trade is not a sustainable practice, and if the popularity of the species continues, a conservation management plan will have to be developed, including a captive breeding program."