Competitive interactions between co-occurring invaders: identifying asymmetries between two invasive crayfish species.
Ecosystems today increasingly suffer invasions by multiple invasive species. Complex interactions between invasive species can have different fitness implications for each invader, which can in turn determine the future progression of their invasions and result in differential impacts on native species and ecosystems. To this end, through pair-wise and group scale experiments, we examined possible interaction outcomes, competition effects and their potential fitness implications for two widespread invasive species of crayfish that increasingly co-occur in freshwater ecosystems of Europe (Pacifastacus leniusulus and Orconectes limosus). In all trials, P. leniusculus demonstrated the potential to outcompete O. limosus in both staged encounters and direct resource competition, being more likely to win heterospecific agonistic encounters and to acquire shelters at a higher rate. Observed dyadic dominance was translated to a broader social context of group-scale experiments, in which dominance of P. leniusculus was further strengthened by size differential between species. O. limosus was not able to compensate for competitive pressure by the dominant P. leniusculus and suffered wet weight loss and more frequent injuries in the presence of P. leniusculus. While both species are detrimental to native ecosystems, the ability of P. leniusculus to withstand competition pressure from another successful invasive species underscores its potential to establish dominant populations. Our results highlight the importance of understanding interspecies competition in prioritizing potential management activities or control efforts in contact zones.