, Volume 716, Issue 1, pp 103-114

Habitat-specific effects of particle size, current velocity, water depth, and predation risk on size-dependent crayfish distribution

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Abstract

This study assessed effects of abiotic (current velocity, water depth, particle size) and biotic (predation risk for crayfish, size distribution and densities of predatory fish) variables on habitat- and size-specific distribution patterns of lotic crayfish (Orconectes obscurus) using field surveys and tethering experiments. Additionally, particle size manipulations were used with predation assays to assess habitat-specific interactions since the average particle size increased from deep pools to shallow pools to riffles. Large crayfish had the highest densities in deep pools and were associated with increased water depth, whereas small and medium crayfish had the highest densities in shallow pools and were strongly associated with increased particle size and decreased water depth. Regardless of size, crayfish in deep pools had significantly lower survival than in shallow pools and riffles. However, only small crayfish showed consistent differences in predation risk by habitat type and were significantly more vulnerable to predation than larger crayfish. Additionally, large rocky refugia resulted in significantly higher survival of small crayfish in the combined particle manipulation/tethering experiment. Overall, predation appears to be a key mechanism structuring habitat-specific distribution patterns for only small O. obscurus. Large substrates may be particularly important in habitats where both small crayfish density and predation risk are high.

Handling editor: Lee B. Kats