Phosphorus-mediated changes in life history traits of the invasive New Zealand mudsnail (Potamopyrgus antipodarum)
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- Tibbets, T.M., Krist, A.C., Hall, R.O. et al. Oecologia (2010) 163: 549. doi:10.1007/s00442-009-1522-7
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Understanding the mechanisms that species use to succeed in new environments is vital to predicting the extent of invasive species impacts. Food quality is potentially important because it can affect population dynamics by affecting life history traits. The New Zealand mudsnail, Potamopyrgus antipodarum, is a worldwide invader. We examined how mudsnail growth rate and fecundity responded to the C:P ratio of algal food in laboratory conditions. Mudsnails fed low-P algae (C:P 1,119) grew more slowly, matured later, produced smaller offspring, and grew to a smaller adult size than snails reared on algae with high levels of P. A relatively small increase in algal C:P (203–270) significantly increased mudsnail age at maturity. We suggest that the relatively high body P requirements of mudsnails make them susceptible to allocation trade-offs between growth and reproduction under P-limited conditions. The elemental composition of algae varies greatly in nature, and over half of the rock biofilms in streams surveyed within the introduced range of mudsnails in the Greater Yellowstone Area had C:P ratios above which could potentially pose P limitation of life history traits. High growth rate and fecundity are common traits of many species that become invasive and are also associated with high-P demands. Therefore, fast-growing consumers with high P demands, such as mudsnails, are potentially more sensitive to P limitation suggesting that limitation of growth and reproduction by food quality is an important factor in understanding the resource demands of invasive species.