- 1.The North American signal crayfish Pacifastacus leniusculus has been widely introduced throughout Europe where it is expanding its range and in many areas replacing the native white-clawed crayfish Austropotamobius pallipes. There is concern with regards to the impact of this species replacement on benthic fish. Interspecific behavioural interactions and competition for shelter between the benthic fish, bullhead Cottus gobio and A. pallipes and P. leniusculus were measured to assess the comparative impact of native and non-native crayfish.
- 2.Both white-clawed crayfish and signal crayfish were dominant over bullhead. Bullheads moved away from approaches of crayfish, left shelters on entry of crayfish and rarely entered an occupied shelter. Signal crayfish made significantly more aggressive approaches towards bullheads than white-clawed crayfish.
- 3.Alone, bullheads spent most of their time by day under shelter (median 96%), reflecting a highly entrained behavioural response, which was relaxed by night (median 60%). Both crayfish species reduced shelter use by bullheads although the extent of shelter sharing by bullheads was higher in trials with white-clawed crayfish than with signal crayfish.
- 4.Sampling in the River Wharfe, northern England, where signal and white-clawed crayfish and bullhead currently exist, demonstrated a negative relationship between the densities of signal crayfish and bullhead, with high bullhead abundance where crayfish were absent or where white-clawed crayfish were present at low density.
- 5.Assuming that shelter is sometimes limited under natural conditions, crayfish are likely to displace bullheads from shelters, which may increase predation risk for bullheads. Although the effects of signal crayfish on bullhead shelter use were more intense, the pattern was highly evident for the native white-clawed crayfish. The higher fecundity and densities attained by signal crayfish may be more significant than differences in the behaviour of the two crayfish species in determining the impact of crayfish on bullheads.
Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.