Larval development rate predicts range expansion of an introduced crab
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Introduced populations can cause ecological and economic damage and are difficult to eradicate once they have established. It is therefore important to be able to predict both where species may become established and their capacity to spread within recipient regions. Here, we use a new method to assess potential for intraregional spread of a marine crab introduced to North America, Carcinus maenas. We determined survivorship and development rates throughout a range of temperatures in the laboratory for C. maenas larvae from non-native populations on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of North America. The larvae exhibited narrower physiological tolerances than adults, and no lab-cultured larvae completed larval development below 10.0°C or above 22.5°C. Survivorship peaked at intermediate water temperatures of 12.5–20.0°C, and development time decreased with increasing temperatures within this range. Based upon these laboratory development rates, we used nearshore sea-surface temperature data from both coasts of North America to predict development times required for larvae at different months and sites. Taken together, survivorship and development data indicate that C. maenas has the capacity to continue its northward spread and establish populations at numerous additional sites in North America. Moreover, decadal temperature data at two Alaskan sites predicted little variability in development duration across years, suggesting that development duration predictions are robust to interannual water temperature differences.