Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

A trematode parasite alters growth, feeding behavior, and demographic success of invasive rusty crayfish (Orconectes rusticus).

Abstract

Nonindigenous species can cause major changes to community interactions and ecosystem processes. The strong impacts of these species are often attributed to their high demographic success. While the importance of enemy release in facilitating invasions has often been emphasized, few studies have addressed the role of parasites in the invasive range in controlling demographic success of potential invaders. Here we examine whether a trematode parasite (Microphallus spp.) can contribute to previously documented alternate states in the abundance of invasive rusty crayfish (Orconectes rusticus) in north temperate lakes in Wisconsin, USA. Microphallus infect O. rusticus after emerging from their first intermediate host, a hydrobiid snail. As previously documented, O. rusticus reduce densities of hydrobiid snails through direct predation and destruction of macrophyte habitat. Therefore, if Microphallus substantially reduce O. rusticus fitness, these parasites may reinforce a state of low crayfish abundance, and, at the other extreme, abundant crayfish may repress these parasites, reinforcing a state of high crayfish abundance. From samples collected from 109 sites in 16 lakes, we discovered (1) a positive relationship between crayfish infection intensity and hydrobiid snail abundance, (2) a negative relationship between parasite prevalence and crayfish abundance, and (3) a negative relationship between parasite prevalence and crayfish population growth. With experiments, we found that infection with Microphallus reduced foraging behavior and growth in O. rusticus, which may be the mechanisms responsible for the population reductions we observed. Overall results are consistent with the hypothesis that Microphallus contributes to alternate states in the abundance and impacts of O. rusticus.