The Big Creek Crayfish, Orconectes peruncus, is native to the St. Francis River drainage in Missouri, USA and is often absent where the introduced Woodland Crayfish, Orconectes hylas, has established. We performed a field experiment to determine whether effects of current abiotic conditions and interspecific competition with O. hylas were responsible for displacement of O. peruncus from parts of their former range. We examined growth and survival of juvenile male O. peruncus exposed to juvenile male O. hylas in enclosures at two sites in the former range of O. peruncus. Enclosures contained 8 (low density) or 16 individuals (high density) and had O. peruncus only (control) or both species (interspecific treatment). Juvenile O. peruncus were able to survive and grow in portions of their former range, implicating biotic versus abiotic factors in the displacement of O. peruncus. Survival rates of O. peruncus did not differ among treatments at either site. Orconectes peruncus showed significant growth in all treatments and interspecific effects were not greater than intraspecific effects on O. peruncus growth rates. High-density treatments showed significantly reduced O. peruncus growth rates compared to low-density treatments, except in Carver Creek interspecific treatments. When considered in the context of previous studies examining the effects of O. hylas on O. peruncus, results suggest that neither direct competition between juvenile males of the two species or abiotic change are responsible for the decreased range of O. peruncus. Additional research is required to determine the mechanism(s) driving the displacement of O. peruncus. ?? 2011 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.
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Do environmental changes or juvenile competition act as mechanisms of species displacement in crayfishes?