Multifaceted implications of the competition between native and invasive crayfish: a glimmer of hope for the native’s long-term survival

  • Octavian Pacioglu
  • Kathrin Theissinger
  • Andreea Alexa
  • Corina Samoilă
  • Ovidiu-Ioan Sîrbu
  • Anne Schrimpf
  • Jochen P. Zubrod
  • Ralf Schulz
  • Mălina Pîrvu
  • Sandra-Florina Lele
  • John I. Jones
  • Lucian PârvulescuEmail author
Original Paper


Biological invasions represent a complex phenomenon driven by multiple factors. In this study, a real-time invasion process between a native (Pontastacus leptodactylus) and an invasive (Faxonius limosus) crayfish species was investigated in the Lower Danube (South-East Europe) through an interdisciplinary approach, by measuring various ecological, genetic, physiological and biometric endpoints. The results revealed that the prolonged competition in old invaded sites of the river (at least a decade) either drove the native species to extinction, or, unexpectedly, allowed its survival as highly fragmented populations. However, for the latter situation, several biological and ecological traits differed in the remnant populations: increased trophic position and elemental imbalance for two major macronutrients (C:N molar ratio), low growth, as strongly contracted trophic niche widths and low overlap degree with the invasive crayfish. The data suggest that the prolonged competition induced potential resource partitioning between species, potentially driving their coexistence, as the development of larger and heavier claws within the native males’ population. On the contrary, in more recently invaded sectors of the Lower Danube (3 years), the trophic niche of the native species was significantly larger compared to old invaded sites and characterised by high level of niche overlap, indicating almost identical diet with the invasive crayfish, but characterised by the lowest trophic position compared to other invasion sectors. The genetic diversity of the native crayfish populations was strongly reduced in the invaded sectors of the river, but without signs of genetic bottleneck, which may be explained by a drift-mutational equilibrium reached as a consequence of diminishing population size. Our findings suggest strong coexistence potential in the future for both species in the Lower Danube.


Pontastacus leptodactylus Faxonius limosus Biological invasions Invasive species Populations genetics Stable isotopes 



This work was funded by a grant from the Romanian National Authority for Scientific Research and Innovation (UEFISCDI) Project Number PN-II-RU-TE-2014-4-0785. We would like to thank Mišel Jelić for sharing information about microsatellite primers, Britta Wahl-Ermel for generating the microsatellite raw data and Lenuţa Novăcescu for help provided during field sampling campaigns.

Author’s contribution

LP and OP conceived the study. OP, MP, LP and SFL provided field samples collection. KT and AS provided genetic data and population genetic analyses. OP provided samples preparation for stable isotope, nutrient mass, JPZ performed stable isotope and elemental analyses, OP, RS and JIJ performed statistical analyses. AA, CS and OIS measured the RNA/DNA ratio (growth rate). MP and SFL measured biometric parameters. OP, KT and LP led the writing of the manuscript. All authors contributed and approved publication.

Supplementary material

10530_2019_2136_MOESM1_ESM.xls (24 kb)
Supplementary material Annex 1: Sampling sites abbreviation, geographic location (latitude and longitude), taxonomic composition of macroinvertebrates within each sampling site, cover degree by macrophytes and presence/absence of riparian trees on the river shores. (XLS 25 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Octavian Pacioglu
    • 1
  • Kathrin Theissinger
    • 2
  • Andreea Alexa
    • 3
  • Corina Samoilă
    • 3
  • Ovidiu-Ioan Sîrbu
    • 3
  • Anne Schrimpf
    • 2
  • Jochen P. Zubrod
    • 2
  • Ralf Schulz
    • 2
  • Mălina Pîrvu
    • 4
  • Sandra-Florina Lele
    • 4
  • John I. Jones
    • 5
  • Lucian Pârvulescu
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.National Institute of Research and Development for Biological SciencesBucharestRomania
  2. 2.Institute for Environmental SciencesUniversity of Koblenz-LandauLandauGermany
  3. 3.Department of Biochemistry and Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine“Victor Babeş” University of Medicine and Pharmacy TimisoaraTimisoaraRomania
  4. 4.Department of Biology-Chemistry, Faculty of Chemistry, Biology, GeographyWest University of TimisoaraTimisoaraRomania
  5. 5.School of Biological and Chemical SciencesQueen Mary University of LondonLondonUK

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