Interactive effects of calcium decline and predation risk on the potential for a continuing northward range expansion of the rusty crayfish (Orconectes rusticus)

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Over the last three decades, the rusty crayfish (Orconectes rusticus (Girard, 1852)) has been expanding its range northward via human-mediated dispersal. If this species is to continue expanding its range northward, it will move onto the Canadian Shield, where calcium (Ca) availability is low and is predicted to decline further in the future. Dissolved Ca is a vital functional component of mollusc and crustacean physiology, important for exoskeletal condition and strength, as well as metabolic activity. However, some organisms are able to compensate for reduced structural integrity by modifying their behaviour. In this study, we asked if the invasive O. rusticus can survive low levels of ambient Ca and, if it can, whether it exhibits modified antipredator behavior in response to the physiological limitations imposed by low [Ca]. We found that, under reduced Ca levels, O. rusticus reduced the frequency of standard activities (such as grooming and foraging) and was more likely to engage in vigilance and (or) escape behavior. We also found that some individuals, in extremely low [Ca], died while molting. This study suggests that Ca limitation on the Shield, especially where predators are present, may limit the northward expansion of O. rusticus beyond their current range limit.

Keywords: Orconectes rusticus; abiotic tolerance; antipredator behavior; comportement antiprédateur; eaux pauvres en calcium; environmental change; espèce envahissante; invasive species; low calcium waters; modification de l’environnement; rusty crayfish; tolérance abiotique; écrevisse américaine

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto, 25 Harbord Street, Toronto, ON M5S 3G5, Canada. 2: Department of Biological Sciences, Brock University, St. Catharines, ON L2S 3A1, Canada.

Publication date: January 1, 2013

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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