Food web positioning of a recent coloniser: the North American Harris mud crab Rhithropanopeus harrisii (Gould, 1841) in the northern Baltic Sea.

Aarnio, Katri, Törnroos, Anna, Björklund, Charlotta and Bonsdorff, Erik (2015) Food web positioning of a recent coloniser: the North American Harris mud crab Rhithropanopeus harrisii (Gould, 1841) in the northern Baltic Sea. Aquatic Invasions, 10 (4). pp. 399-413. DOI 10.3391/ai.2015.10.4.04.

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Abstract

Identifying resource use and functional traits of non-indigenous species are promising means to increase the ability to predict ecological consequences of invasions. One of the most widely spread brachyuran crab species, and a recent invader in the northern Baltic Sea, is the North American Harris mud crab, Rhithropanopeus harrisii (Gould, 1841). Although spread, establishment, and population structure have been studied for this species, little is known about its role and impact in a new environment. We investigated the position and role of R. harrisii in the coastal food web by combining spatial and temporal estimates of trophic position using stable isotopes (δ13C and δ15N), with short-term food- and habitat-choice experiments. We observed a stable pattern in the trophic position between two environmentally different locations in the Archipelago Sea over the production season. The identification of a natural breakpoint in carbon stable isotopes at the size of 12 mm carapace width suggested a presence of an ontogenetic diet shift, which was confirmed by isotope signatures positioning large R. harrisii among secondary consumers and small individuals with primary consumers. The generalist consumer nature of R. harrisii and preference for structured habitat was supported by an active habitat and food choice, revealing no preference for prey species (polychaetes versus amphipod), but selection of brown algae over bare mud. To broaden the understanding of the functional role of R. harrisii, we combined our findings with other known biological and ecological traits of the species and qualitatively compared these to characteristics of other benthic organisms in the northern Baltic Sea, suggesting a general similarity in traits.

Document Type: Article
Refereed: Yes
Open Access Journal?: Yes
DOI etc.: 10.3391/ai.2015.10.4.04
ISSN: 1818-5487
Projects: BONUS BIO-C3
Date Deposited: 25 Feb 2016 09:45
Last Modified: 25 Feb 2016 09:45
URI: http://oceanrep.geomar.de/id/eprint/31533

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