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Preferences of the Ponto-Caspian amphipod Dikerogammarus haemobaphes for living zebra mussels


  • Editor: Nigel Bennett

Jarosław Kobak, Department of Invertebrate Zoology, Institute of General and Molecular Biology, Nicolaus Copernicus University, Gagarina 9, 87-100 Toruń, Poland.


A Ponto-Caspian amphipod Dikerogammarus haemobaphes has recently invaded European waters. In the recipient area, it encountered Dreissena polymorpha, a habitat-forming bivalve, co-occurring with the gammarids in their native range. We assumed that interspecific interactions between these two species, which could develop during their long-term co-evolution, may affect the gammarid behaviour in novel areas. We examined the gammarid ability to select a habitat containing living mussels and searched for cues used in that selection. We hypothesized that they may respond to such traits of a living mussel as byssal threads, activity (e.g. valve movements, filtration) and/or shell surface properties. We conducted the pairwise habitat-choice experiments in which we offered various objects to single gammarids in the following combinations: (1) living mussels versus empty shells (the general effect of living Dreissena); (2) living mussels versus shells with added byssal threads and shells with byssus versus shells without it (the effect of byssus); (3) living mussels versus shells, both coated with nail varnish to neutralize the shell surface (the effect of mussel activity); (4) varnished versus clean living mussels (the effect of shell surface); (5) varnished versus clean stones (the effect of varnish). We checked the gammarid positions in the experimental tanks after 24 h. The gammarids preferred clean living mussels over clean shells, regardless of the presence of byssal threads under the latter. They responded to the shell surface, exhibiting preferences for clean mussels over varnished individuals. They were neither affected by the presence of byssus nor by mussel activity. The ability to detect and actively select zebra mussel habitats may be beneficial for D. haemobaphes and help it establish stable populations in newly invaded areas.

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