Water temperature as a hindrance, but not limiting factor for the survival of warm water invasive crayfish introduced in cold periods.
The success of non-native species establishment depends on various abiotic and biotic factors that determine the outcome of an introduction event. Limiting temperature ranges have been studied for various non-native species; however, such previous assessments of species-specific temperature thresholds may be inadequate. Because several non-native crayfish species prefer warmer water temperatures, introductions were generally assumed to occur during preferable, warmer periods. However, despite the generality, traditionally considered 'warm-water' species are gradually appearing in new habitats, which were previously considered too cold for successful establishment. Newly discovered overwintering abilities of these species are likely related to the winter stratification in lentic ecosystems, which maintain tolerable conditions. To understand better the survivability of two such non-native species, red swamp crayfish Procambarus clarkii and marbled crayfish Procambarus virginalis individuals were abruptly subjected to a thermic shock which lowered the water temperature from 20°C (room temperature) to 6°C, 4°C and 2°C, thus mimicking the release by pet owners during various phases of winter. The survival rate and foraging activity were monitored for up to 98 days. Procambarus clarkii showed a considerable higher survival rate at low temperatures (4°C, 2°C) compared to that of P. virginalis with neither sex nor size differences evident. Our findings reveal the ability of warm water invaders to withstand a shock during introduction at low temperature periods without acclimation. Considering these newly discovered shifts in physiological limitations, particularly for the red swamp crayfish, this may indicate a higher threat for areas with colder conditions.