Does juvenile competition explain displacement of a native crayfish by an introduced crayfish?
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The coldwater crayfish Orconectes eupunctus is endemic to the Spring and Eleven Point Rivers of Arkansas and Missouri, and appears to have been displaced from a portion of its range by the recently introduced ringed crayfish Orconectes neglectus. We examined competition among juveniles as a potential mechanism for this crayfish species displacement through laboratory and field experiments. Orconectes eupunctus juveniles survived and grew in stream cages in their former range, implicating biotic interactions rather than habitat degradation in the displacement. Laboratory experiments revealed O. neglectus juveniles were dominant in the presence of limited food, whereas size rather than species determined occupancy of limited shelter. In a field competition experiment using stream cages, O. neglectus juveniles did not inhibit growth or reduce survival of O. eupunctus juveniles. Consequently, laboratory evidence of O. neglectus dominance did not correspond with competition under field conditions. Combined with previous studies examining the effects of O. neglectus on O. eupunctus, these results suggest that competition may not be a factor in this crayfish species displacement. Alternate mechanisms for the apparent displacement of O. eupunctus by O. neglectus, such as differential predation or reproductive interference, should be investigated.
KeywordsCompetition Crayfish Dominance Field experiment Invasive species Juvenile Growth rates Laboratory experiment
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