Aquatic Ecology

, Volume 48, Issue 1, pp 1–10 | Cite as

Waterbird-mediated passive dispersal is a viable process for crayfish (Procambarus clarkii)

  • Pedro M. Anastácio
  • Miriam P. Ferreira
  • Filipe Banha
  • César Capinha
  • João E. Rabaça


Human transport and active dispersal of the red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) contribute to its rapid spread. However, some small aquatic organisms can be transported by birds. We made two hypotheses related to waterbird-mediated passive dispersal of juvenile crayfish. The first is that, depending on water depth, recently hatched crayfish can attach to ducks, initiating passive external transport (i.e., ectozoochory). The second is that recently hatched crayfish can survive bird flight, being affected by crayfish features, flight distance, and environmental conditions. A first experiment tested the attachment of juvenile crayfish to ducks at different water depths by using a freshly dead duck and tanks with crayfish. Another set of three experiments tested crayfish survival during air transportation. To simulate bird flight, we first used a vehicle moving at bird flight speed, and we then used trained pigeons. Several flight distances, environmental conditions, and crayfish sizes were tested. Our results showed that juvenile crayfish were capable of clinging to duck feathers and were transported when ducks were removed from the water. Furthermore, some juveniles of P. clarkii were able to survive long-distance transport when suspended outside a moving vehicle or when transported by birds. The probability of success was affected by water depth, crayfish size, distance travelled, and relative humidity. Our results support the occurrence of passive transportation of this invader by means of attachment to birds. These findings indicate that waterbird-mediated passive dispersal should be taken into account to explain P. clarkii’s rapid spread and should be considered when managing its invasions.


Crayfish Procambarus clarkii Passive dispersal Ectozoochory Biological invasions Waterfowl 



Mr. Mario Rodrigues and Mr. José Grazina from Rodrigues & Grazina firm kindly allowed us the use of their trained pigeons in our experiments and both provided valuable help with the experiments. Centro de Recuperação de Animais Silvestres of Évora kindly provided dead birds. Maria José Barão helped during crayfish collection and maintenance. All experiments were performed in accordance with Portuguese law, and no vertebrates were harmed or stressed during the experiments. This research was performed within the scope of the Dispersal of Invasive Decapoda (DID) (PTDC/BIA-BEC/105182/2008) research project funded by the Portuguese Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (FCT) and co-financed by FEDER, trough the Eixo I of the Programa Operacional Factores de Competitividade (POFC) from QREN.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pedro M. Anastácio
    • 1
  • Miriam P. Ferreira
    • 1
  • Filipe Banha
    • 1
  • César Capinha
    • 1
  • João E. Rabaça
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.IMAR, Marine and Environmental Research Centre, Departamento de Paisagem, Ambiente e OrdenamentoUniversidade de ÉvoraÉvoraPortugal
  2. 2.LabOr-Laboratório de Ornitologia, Departamento de BiologiaUniversidade de ÉvoraÉvoraPortugal
  3. 3.Grupo de Investigação em Paisagens e Ecossistemas Mediterrânicos, ICAAMUniversidade de ÉvoraÉvoraPortugal

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