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Changes in population characteristics and structure of the signal crayfish at the edge of its invasive range in a European river

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 February 2012

Sandra Hudina
Faculty of Science, University of Zagreb, Rooseveltov trg 6, 10000 Zagreb, Croatia
Karlo Hock
Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources, Rutgers The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, NJ 08901, USA
Krešimir Žganec
Faculty of Science, University of Zagreb, Rooseveltov trg 6, 10000 Zagreb, Croatia
Andreja Lucić
Faculty of Science, University of Zagreb, Rooseveltov trg 6, 10000 Zagreb, Croatia
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The ability of rapid range expansion is one of the key determinants of invasive species success. In order to investigate potential drivers behind the rapid spread of invasive species, we explored changes in population characteristics and structure along the invasion pathway of a successful invader in European freshwaters, the signal crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus). Diverse population parameters such as relative population abundance, size and sex structure, differences in morphometry and frequency of injuries were compared between signal crayfish population samples at three uniformly distributed segments (approximately 40 km apart) in the lower section of the Mura River, which differed in time since invasion. Examined signal crayfish populations exhibited notable differences, with more recently established populations toward invasion front characterized by lower abundance and male-biased sex ratios, which highlighted males as initial dispersers. We also recorded significant increase in the relative claw size, a competitively advantageous and allometric trait for males, in more recently established populations away from source population. The recorded differences in population structure and male morphometry along the invasion pathway could lead to important clues about dynamics of range expansion and population establishment, highlighting the traits that promote dispersal and better response to local conditions in new habitats. Established differences can also provide insights into the development of targeted management responses aimed at invasive species control.

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© EDP Sciences, 2012

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