Leaf-litter preferences of the introduced freshwater shrimps Atyaephyra desmarestii and Neocaridina davidi

in Crustaceana
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Detailed knowledge of the significance of shrimps in freshwater food webs is very limited. However, determination of the current potential invasion of shrimps into European freshwater systems requires information on their ecology and feeding behaviour. Atyaephyra desmarestii has established stable populations in Western and Central Europe, while the ornamental species Neocaridina davidi was released in 2009 into a small tributary of the Erft River (North Rhine Westphalia, Germany), where it has thrived. Both species use leaf-litter as a significant food source. In this study, we assessed a reproducible method to compare the preferences of this two shrimp species for decaying leaves of four different species of deciduous tree: alder (Alnus glutinosa), Italian poplar (Populus x canadensis), pedunculate oak (Quercus robur) and goat willow (Salix caprea). We also determined the relevance of A. desmarestii and N. davidi in leaf-litter breakdown. Adults of both species showed a significant preference for leaves of alder and Italian poplar, whereas juvenile individuals did not favour any particular leaf species. A. desmarestii and N. davidi adults exhibited higher night-time than daytime activity. Diurnal consumption rates were determined for N. davidi. It consumed 51.0% leaf litter dry weight per body dry weight per day. Alnus and Salix leaves (including biofilm) made up the majority of the diet of Neocaridina, followed by Populus and Quercus leaves. Our results demonstrate the distinct relevance of leaf-litter in the diet of freshwater shrimps, and their role in leaf-litter breakdown. While the invasion potential of A. desmarestii seems to be relatively low, at least for now, N. davidi has thus far been a very successful invader. This is supported by its high feeding rates on leaf litter of the regional vegetation. Since there is no indigenous shrimp species in the study area, the potential implications of the invasion process merit further investigation.


International Journal of Crustacean Research



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  • A, experimental arena (with four food chambers and one central control chamber) used in the food selection studies. B, C, the organisms (females) used in the experiment: B, Atyaephyra desmarestii; C, Neocaridina davidi. Scale bars: A = 50 mm; B-C, 10 mm.

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  • A, fragmented leaf discs of the four tree species tested; B, epifluorescence micrograph of the leaf surface of Populus x canadensis dominated by hyphomycete hyphae and conidia.

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  • Food preferences of the two shrimp species, measured as the frequency of individuals in the different chambers supplied with the respective leaf discs and in the control chamber. The dashed line represents the control value. Means and standard deviations are presented for four replicates with 10 individual adult and juvenile A. desmarestii and N. davidi. Results of the post-hoc tests are shown. Means with the same letters on top of the bars indicate no significant differences, while different letters indicate significant differences (P<0.05) between the numbers of organisms per chamber found either in chambers with Alnus, Populus, Quercus, Salix or the control. Significant differences were only found for adults of Atyaephyra and Necocaridina, while experiments with juveniles of each species showed now significant differences.

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  • Diurnal changes in the activity patterns of adult N. davidi, measured based on the number of local changes of 10 individuals within the experimental container during a 24-h period (left). Nocturnal activity was significantly (P<0.01) higher than diurnal activity (right).

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  • Food preferences of adult N. davidi, measured as the frequency of individuals on leaf discs from four tree species. The area outside the leaf discs served as the control area. The time course of food preferences is illustrated for the first 6 h in the dark (A), the second 6 h in the dark (B), the first 6 h in the light (C) and the second 6 h in the light (D). The means and standard deviations are presented for 10 individuals (registered every 10 min) in a 24-h experiment. Identical letters on the top of each column indicate no significant differences between leaf types (ANOVA, P<0.05). In the right graph (E), the fragmentation of the leaf discs (A. glutinosa) after feeding by N. davidi was documented at 3.5, 7, 10.5, 14, 17.5, 21 and 24 h (starting from the top) after the start of the experiment. Results of the post-hoc tests are shown. Means with the same letters on top of the bars indicate no significant differences, while different letters indicate significant differences (P<0.05) between the numbers of registrations of organisms on leaves of either Alnus, Populus, Quercus, Salix or registrations from the remaining area.

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  • Individual (A) and specific (B) feeding rates of adult N. davidi during the 24-h food selection experiments regarding the consumption of leaf discs from four tree species. Weight specific units were given in mg fresh weight (f.w.) and g dry weight (d.w.). The means and standard deviations are given for 10 replicate experiments, each using 10 shrimp individuals. Individual feeding rates (A) are expressed as mg fresh weight of leaf litter per individual shrimp and day. The specific feeding rate was calculated as g dry weight of leaf litter per g dry weight of shrimp per day. Identical letters on the top of each column indicate no significant differences between leaf types (ANOVA, P<0.05). Results of the post-hoc tests are shown. Means with the same letters on top of the bars indicate no significant differences, while different letters indicate significant differences (P<0.05) between the feeding rate on either Alnus, Populus, Quercus or Salix.

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