Carreira, B.M., Segurado, P., Laurila, A. & Rebelo, R. (2017) Can heat waves change the trophic role of the world's most invasive crayfish? Diet shifts in Procambarus clarkii.PLOS One, 12(9), e0183108. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0183108 (IF2017 2.766; Q1 Multidisciplinary Sciences)
In the Mediterranean basin, the globally increasing temperatures are expected to be accompanied by longer heat waves. Commonly assumed to benefit cold-limited invasive alien species, these climatic changes may also change their feeding preferences, especially in the case of omnivorous ectotherms. We investigated heat wave effects on diet choice, growth and energy reserves in the invasive red swamp crayfish, Procambarus clarkii. In laboratory experiments, we fed juvenile and adult crayfish on animal, plant or mixed diets and exposed them to a short or a long heat wave. We then measured crayfish survival, growth, body reserves and Fulton's condition index. Diet choices of the crayfish maintained on the mixed diet were estimated using stable isotopes (13C and 15N). The results suggest a decreased efficiency of carnivorous diets at higher temperatures, as juveniles fed on the animal diet were unable to maintain high growth rates in the long heat wave; and a decreased efficiency of herbivorous diets at lower temperatures, as juveniles in the cold accumulated less body reserves when fed on the plant diet. Heat wave treatments increased the assimilation of plant material, especially in juveniles, allowing them to sustain high growth rates in the long heat wave. Contrary to our expectations, crayfish performance decreased in the long heat wave, suggesting that Mediterranean summer heat waves may have negative effects on P. clarkii and that they are unlikely to boost its populations in this region. Although uncertain, it is possible that the greater assimilation of the plant diet resulted from changes in crayfish feeding preferences, raising the hypotheses that i) heat waves may change the predominant impacts of this keystone species and ii) that by altering species' trophic niches, climate change may alter the main impacts of invasive alien species.