Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Shape matters: relevance of carapace for brachyuran crab invaders.

Abstract

The increasing trend of biological invasions is one of the most concerning threats for ecosystems functioning. The identification of optimal characters determining the invasive potential of non-native species has always been a challenge in conservation studies. Morphological features can be used as a good proxy to address the invasive success in fish species, assuming that anatomical differences in comparison to native species can provide to newcomers ecological opportunities increasing their probability to become successful. Considering this, the present study constitutes the first applicative attempt of a model based on geometric morphometrics to demonstrate the importance of the carapace shape in the invasive ability in marine decapod crustaceans. The study was performed on the native brachyuran community of Alfacs Bay, in the Ebro Delta, the largest estuarine zone along the north-western Mediterranean, in which two recently established non-native crab species coexist: Dyspanopeus sayi and Callinectes sapidus. Results suggested that invaders with extreme carapace traits located peripherally in the community morphospace, such as C. sapidus, usually possess ecological advantages contributing to understand their success. Conversely, intermediate morphologies within the morphospace, such as D. sayi, imply ecological overlapping with native species reducing their community relevance. Besides, we also assessed the effect on the community morphospace of a hypothetical future invasive event from another crab species (Portunus segnis) with high probabilities to also colonize the community. Our outcomes confirm that the morphometric approach could be an alternative tool for assessing the potential ability of invasive crab species. However, further studies at different spatial and temporal scales, including additional traits and quantitative data from invasions, would be necessary to confirm the efficacy and usefulness of the methodology.