Impacts of native and invasive crayfish on three native and one invasive freshwater mussel species

Andreas H. Dobler, Juergen Geist

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Freshwater mussels and crayfish provide important ecosystem functions and services. In both groups, global declines of native species are paralleled by invasions of non-native species. Knowledge on differences in predation susceptibility of native and invasive freshwater mussels exposed to native and invasive crayfish is essential for understanding their ecological interactions and for conservation management. In this study, we compared the predation impact of the native European noble crayfish (Astacus astacus) and the invasive signal crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus) on three native (Anodonta anatina, Anodonta cygnea, and Unio pictorum) and one invasive (Sinanodonta woodiana) mussel species in controlled laboratory experiments. We repeated the same experiments with the same crayfish specimens to investigate a potential learning effect of crayfish and assessed the in situ impacts in a natural stream. Mussel predation and damage caused by P. leniusculus was significantly higher than by A. astacus. Irrespective of the crayfish species, susceptibility was greater in native mussel species compared to invasive S. woodiana. Predation and damage was greatest in the thick-shelled U. pictorum, suggesting that other factors such as shell shape are more important in explaining susceptibility than shell thickness. A predation learning effect from previous co-exposure was evident, being most pronounced for A. astacus. Even if our experimental findings could not be confirmed in the field, the experimental results suggest that crayfish may have a negative impact on mussels and this impact will likely increase with the ongoing spread of P. leniusculus replacing A. astacus populations in Europe. The co-occurrence of invasive P. leniusculus with the invasive S. woodiana could potentially exacerbate declines of endangered native mussel populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)389-403
Number of pages15
JournalFreshwater Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2022


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