Following its introduction into the St. Francis River drainage, Missouri, U.S.A., the woodland crayfish, Orconectes hylas has expanded its range there; simultaneously populations of two imperiled endemic species, the Big Creek crayfish, O. peruncus, and the St. Francis River crayfish, O. quadruncus have declined therein. In seeking a basis for this decline, our study objective was to test whether the outcome of aggressive inter-specific interactions would favor O. hylas. We studied agonistic encounters between size-matched pairs of same-sex individuals of the introduced and the endemic species in a laboratory setting, first with juveniles and then with adults. Within each life stage, we conducted four sets of laboratory experiments, with approximately 20 trials in each set: (1) O. hylas males versus O. peruncus males, (2) O. hylas males versus O. quadruncus males, (3) O. hylas females versus O. peruncus females, and (4) O. hylas females versus O. quadruncus females. In addition, these same four experiment sets were repeated using larger adult O. hylas crayfish matched with smaller-sized adult endemics, mimicking the mismatch in adult sizes that occurs in the wild. Within each experiment, every trial was analysed to quantify the frequency of occurrence of three initiation behaviors and to determine the overall outcome of the trial. Results did not show O. hylas (juveniles or adults) to be behaviorally dominant over either endemic species. Orconectes hylas displayed the majority of one of the initiation behaviors significantly more often than did the endemic species in only two of the twelve experiments. Because direct aggressive interaction was not demonstrated to be the mechanism whereby O. peruncus and O. quadruncus are being replaced by O. hylas, other life history and ecological factors will require investigation. ?? Koninklijke Brill NV, 2005.
Additional publication details
Laboratory agonistic interactions demonstrate failure of an introduced crayfish to dominate two imperiled endemic crayfishes