When r-selection may not predict introduced-species proliferation: Predation of a nonnative oyster

Melanie J. Bishop*, Charles H. Peterson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Predicting outcomes of species introductions may be enhanced by integrating life-history theory with results of contained experiments that compare ecological responses of exotic and analogue native species to dominant features of the recipient environment. An Asian oyster under consideration for introduction to the Chesapeake Bay, USA, the rapidly growing Suminoe oyster (Crassostrea ariakensis), may not be as successful an invader as its r-selected life history suggests if the trade-off for rapid growth and maturation is lower investment in defenses against blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) predation than the native Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica). In laboratory trials, blue crabs simultaneously offered equal numbers of Suminoe and Eastern oysters consumed more nonnatives, irrespective of whether the crabs had previous experience with Suminoe oysters as prey. Satiated blue crabs consumed nearly three times as many Suminoe oysters as Eastern oysters of 25-mm shell height, and eight times as many of 35-mm shell height. Despite blue crabs consuming small (30 mm) Suminoe oysters at twice the rate of large (40 mm) Suminoe oysters, when 40-mm Suminoe were paired with 30-mm Eastern oysters, seven times as many of the larger (Suminoe) oysters were consumed. The greater susceptibility of C. ariakensis than C. virginica to blue crab predation appears to be based upon the biomechanics of shell strength rather than active selection of a more attractive food. Much less force was required to crush shells of Suminoe than Eastern oysters of similar shell height. Tissue transplant experiments demonstrated greater predation on oyster tissues in weaker C. ariakensis shells independent of tissue identity, and duration of handling time before rejection of C. virginica exceeded the time to crush C. ariakensis. These results, coupled with the present importance of blue crab predation in limiting recovery of native Eastern oysters, imply a role for blue crabs in inhibiting Suminoe oysters, if introduced, from attaining high adult densities required to restore a fishery, provide appreciable reef habitat, and reduce turbidity through filtration. Thus, in high-predation environments, allocation of resources to rapid growth and development rather than to predation defenses reflects a life-history trade-off that may promote early stages of invasion, yet prevent attainment of dense adult populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)718-730
Number of pages13
JournalEcological Applications
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2006
Externally publishedYes


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