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Biological Invasions

, Volume 12, Issue 11, pp 3817–3824 | Cite as

Biological control of invasive populations of crayfish: the European eel (Anguilla anguilla) as a predator of Procambarus clarkii

  • Laura AquiloniEmail author
  • Sara Brusconi
  • Elena Cecchinelli
  • Elena Tricarico
  • Giuseppe Mazza
  • Annalisa Paglianti
  • Francesca Gherardi
Original Paper

Abstract

The red swamp crayfish, Procambarus clarkii, is a paradigmatic invader of freshwater systems. Several attempts have been made to mitigate its multiple impacts but none was successful. Among the different methods proposed, the use of the European eel (Anguilla anguilla) as an indigenous predator is promising but the available information about its predatory ability on crayfish is to date scanty. To fill this gap in knowledge, we ran three experiments in wetlands and irrigation ditches in Italy. The first experiment, in the laboratory, was aimed at quantifying the extent of predation by eels on crayfish, the second, in enclosures, the size classes of crayfish mainly preyed and the possible effect of the eels on P. clarkii behaviour, and the third, in the field, its ability to effectively reduce crayfish populations. Results showed that eels prey on small-sized or soft crayfish, attacking them from the back; an indirect effect was to reduce crayfish trophic activity, which in turn might increases crayfish mortality due to starvation and decreases impact on the community. However, as shown in the field, the use of eels should be appropriately calibrated to the context of application. Taken together, our results show that eels might be used as a complement to the traditional trapping method. However, additional studies are necessary to understand the adequate number of eels to be introduced and to develop appropriate methods for quantifying such effects.

Keywords

Invasive species Procambarus clarkii Anguilla anguilla Management Habitat conservation Predation by fish species 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Experiments 1 and 2 were financed by the Province of Pistoia (Tuscany) and Experiment 3 by Consorzio di Bonifica Parmigiana Moglia-Secchia (Emilia-Romagna). The authors thank Dr F. Fagnani (Province of Pistoia), Ing. P. Zanetti, Dr. M. Fantesini, and Dr. M.T. Giglioli (Consorzio di Bonifica Parmigiana Moglia-Secchia) for their constant help and encouragement.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laura Aquiloni
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sara Brusconi
    • 1
  • Elena Cecchinelli
    • 1
  • Elena Tricarico
    • 1
  • Giuseppe Mazza
    • 1
  • Annalisa Paglianti
    • 1
  • Francesca Gherardi
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of FlorenceFlorenceItaly

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