Microsatellite data have recently been introduced in the context of genetic maternity and paternity assignments in high-fecundity fish species with single-parent-tended broods. Here we extend such analyses to an aquatic invertebrate, the crayfish Orconectes placidus, in which gravid females carry large numbers of offspring. Genetic parentage analyses of more than 900 progeny from 15 wild crayfish broods revealed that gravid females were invariably the exclusive dams of the offspring they tended (i.e. there was no allomaternal care), and that most of the females had mated with multiple (usually two) males who contributed sometimes highly skewed numbers of offspring to a brood. Within any multiply sired brood, the unhatched eggs (or the hatched juveniles) from different fathers were randomly distributed across the mother's brood space. All of these genetic findings are discussed in the light of observations on the mating behaviours and reproductive biology of crayfish.