Interspecific Differences in Responses to Predation Risk May Confer Competitive Advantages to Invasive Freshwater Turtle Species


José Martín, Departamento de Ecología Evolutiva, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, CSIC, José Gutiérrez Abascal 2, 28006 Madrid, Spain.


The nature of competitive interactions between native and introduced invasive species is unclear. In the Iberian Peninsula, the introduced red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) is an invasive species that is competing and displacing the endangered native Spanish terrapin (Mauremys leprosa). We hypothesized that interspecific differences in antipredatory behavior might confer competitive advantages to introduced T. scripta. We examined whether interspecific differences in responses to predation risk affect the time that turtles remained hidden in the shell before using an active escape to water. Both turtle species adjusted hiding times by balancing predation threat, microhabitat conditions and the costs of remaining hidden. However, introduced T. scripta showed longer hiding times before escaping than native M. Leprosa, which, in contrast, switched from waiting hidden in the shell to escape to deep water as soon as possible. These interspecific differences might result from the risk of facing different types of predators in different microhabitats (land vs. water) in their original habitats. However, in anthropogenically altered habitats where predators have been greatly reduced, T. scripta may avoid potential costs of unnecessary repeated escape responses to water (e.g. interruption of basking). These behavioral asymmetries could contribute to the greater competitive ability of introduced T. scripta within anthropogenically disturbed environments.