Juvenile Chinese mitten crabs (Eriocheir sinensis) in the Thames estuary: distribution, movement and possible interactions with the native crab Carcinus maenas
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The Chinese mitten crab, Eriocheir sinensis is a successful invader. Whilst non-breeding adult E. sinensis have been associated with the destruction of riverbanks, little is known about the ecology of this species in its invaded areas. This is especially true of the juveniles which are a key migratory stage. Intertidal surveys along the Thames estuary indicated an increase in the population since the 1990s. Juvenile E. sinensis were abundant in the sampled upper tidal region of the Thames, refuging under boulders in the intertidal at low tide. Seasonal differences in sampled populations were observed, with a significantly lower abundance of crabs found during winter compared to summer. Mark-recaptures indicated movement in the intertidal occurring during high tide, with an influx of new crabs evident after a single tidal cycle. Endogenous rhythms were also apparent, with peaks in activity occurring corresponding with night-time high tide conditions. E. sinensis juveniles can successfully exclude similar sized native Carcinus maenas from shelters in the laboratory, regardless of which species originally inhabited the shelter. This may have implications for native estuarine Carcinus populations, which can rely on such intertidal shelters for refuges.