Trophic ecology of invasive marbled and spiny-cheek crayfish populations.
North American cambarid crayfish have been highly successful in establishing and spreading across Europe and are now over-invading earlier arrivals in many water bodies. Parthenogenetic marbled crayfish (Procambarus virginalis), which originated from aquarium stocks, are relatively recent invaders and have established in lakes previously invaded by spiny-cheek crayfish (Faxonius limosus). However, the feeding ecology of marbled crayfish and consequential impacts on the non-native species' coexistence are largely unexplored. By combining laboratory experiments with stable isotope analyses of field samples, we were able to (1) determine food preferences of both species under controlled conditions and (2) explore their trophic niches in three lakes where both species co-occur. In the food-choice laboratory experiments, the two species showed similar food preferences and consumption rates. Consistently, the stable isotope analyses (δ13C and δ15N) highlighted the intermediate trophic position of both species. Marbled crayfish and spiny-cheek crayfish occupied a wide range of trophic positions corresponding to a very generalist diet. However, marbled crayfish were more relying on arthropod prey than spiny-cheek crayfish which fed more on mollusks. This is the first work providing evidence for trophic plasticity of marbled crayfish in lake food webs. Our results suggest that the addition of marbled crayfish increases grazing pressure on macrophytes and macrophyte-dependent organisms and the allochthonous detritus decomposition in ecosystems already invaded by spiny-cheek crayfish. Since both species are listed as invasive alien species of EU concern, further assessments of potentially endangered food organisms are needed.