Evolutionary history and sex are significant drivers of crayfish demography in resource-limited cave ecosystems

Abstract

Obligate and facultative cave species both play significant functional roles in cave ecosystems. Unlike obligate cave species, facultative cave species can persist in habitats both within and outside of caves. However, no comparative demographic model explaining the sustained presence of both obligate and facultative cave species has been provided. We developed a multi-state capture–mark–recapture (CMR) analysis based on 5 years of data collected from caves in northern Alabama, USA to explore differences in survival and reproductive transition probabilities between obligate (Orconectes australis and Cambarus hamulatus) and facultative (C. tenebrosus) cave crayfish. Multi-state CMR analyses revealed that male obligate cave species showed significantly higher rates of transitioning to a reproductive state than male C. tenebrosus, while no differences among species were observed for females. Transitioning into a non-reproductive state, however, was higher for obligate cave species regardless of sex. Apparent survival rates between cave obligates and C. tenebrosus did not differ, suggesting that the larger population sizes of obligate cave species within our study sites may be driven by more successful male reproductive strategies. Our results suggest that obligate cave crayfishes have evolved unique sex-specific reproductive strategies not shared by C. tenebrosus that likely represent a specialized adaptation to the cave environment. Conversely, persistent immigration by surface populations is likely crucial for the sustained presence of facultative species within cave environments.

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Data availability

The datasets analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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Acknowledgements

Funding for this project was provided by the University of Alabama and two State Wildlife Grants entitled “Assessment of population dynamics of cave inhabiting crayfish in Alabama” to A.D.H. and B.R.K (Grant # T-03-02 and T-3-3-2). Data for this project were collected under State of Alabama Department of Conservation Permit 2010000029568680. F.A. thanks the New Mexico State Agricultural Experiment Station for financial support (NM Fitsum-2017H). We are grateful to Horace Clemens and the Southeastern Cave Conservancy for cave access. Thanks to Chau Tran, Jim Godwin, Justin Cook, Tom Heatherly, Dr. Michael Kendrick, Randall Blackwood, Stuart W. McGregor, Lauren Showalter, Mica Junior, Dru Holla, Dr. Tim Wynn, Cameron Craig, Samantha Richter, Chase Moon, Jonathan Hopper, Jessica Hopper, James Ramsey, Dr. Mick Demi, Dr. Dan Nelson, Dr. Brook Fluker, Derrick Wells, and Dr. Michael Sandel for their assistance in the field and laboratory. This manuscript was improved by helpful comments by Dr. Michael Sandel. The authors of this manuscript have no conflicts of interest to report.

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BMH, MPV, FA and CLC conceived the ideas; MPV, ADH, BRK, and JPB designed methodology; BMH, MPV, ADH, BRK, and JPB collected data; BMH and FA analyzed the data; BMH led writing of the manuscript; all authors contributed critically to the drafts and gave final approval for publication.

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Correspondence to Brock M. Huntsman.

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Huntsman, B.M., Venarsky, M.P., Abadi, F. et al. Evolutionary history and sex are significant drivers of crayfish demography in resource-limited cave ecosystems. Evol Ecol 34, 235–255 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10682-019-10029-w

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Keywords

  • E-SURGE
  • Karst
  • Life history
  • Multi-state mark–recapture
  • Resource limitation