Invasive dreissenid mussels benefit invasive crayfish but not native crayfish in the Laurentian Great Lakes.
Invasive ecosystem engineers, such as dreissenid mussels, may facilitate subsequent invaders. Despite their potential ecological importance, interactions between dreissenid mussels and crayfish in the Laurentian Great Lakes have received little research attention. Invasive rusty crayfish (Orconectes rusticus) have recently spread within the Great Lakes, and we hypothesized that food resources provided by invasive dreissenid mussels may have enhanced this spread. Dreissenid mussels may also benefit native crayfish such as the virile crayfish (O. virilis), but the distribution of virile species has not increased in the Great Lakes in recent years. We tested the interactive effects of dreissenid mussels and crayfish density on the growth, survival and activity of sympatric rusty and virile crayfish using a mesocosm experiment. We found that dreissenid mussels increased growth and activity of rusty crayfish while high crayfish densities negatively affected rusty crayfish growth. Dreissenid mussels did not affect growth or activity of virile crayfish, but high crayfish densities negatively affected their survival. The different responses of rusty and virile crayfish to mussels may be due to a greater ability of invasive crayfish to exploit mussel-associated food resources and/or to behavioral interactions between these species in sympatry. Our results suggest that dreissenid mussels may facilitate the establishment, spread, and potential impacts of invasive crayfish where these taxa co-occur.