The fate of an immigrant: Ensis directus in the eastern German Bight

Jennifer.Dannheim [ at ]


We studied Ensis directus in the subtidal (7–16 m depth) of the eastern German Bight. The jackknife clam that invaded in the German Bight in 1978 has all characteristics of a successful immigrant: Ensis directus has a high reproductive capacity (juveniles, July 2001: Amrumbank 1,914 m-2, Eiderstedt/Vogelsand: 11,638 m-2), short generation times and growths rapidly: maximum growth rates were higher than in former studies (mean: 3 mm month-1, 2nd year: up to 14 mm month-1). Ensis directus uses natural mechanisms for rapid dispersal, occurs gregariously and exhibits a wide environmental tolerance. However, optimal growth and population-structure annual gaps might be influenced by reduced salinity: at Vogelsand (transition area of Elbe river), maximum growth was lower (164 mm) than at the Eiderstedt site (outer range of Elbe river, L max = 174 mm). Mass mortalities of the clams are probably caused by washout (video inspections), low winter temperature and strong storms. Ensis directus immigrated into the community finding its own habitat on mobile sands with strong tidal currents. Recent studies on E. directus found that the species neither suppresses native species nor takes over the position of an established one which backs up our study findings over rather short time scales. On the contrary, E. directus seems to favour the settlement of some deposit feeders. Dense clam mats might stabilise the sediment and function as a sediment-trap for organic matter. Ensis directus has neither become a nuisance to other species nor developed according to the ‘boom-and-bust’ theory. The fate of the immigrant E. directus rather is a story of a successful trans-ocean invasion which still holds on 23 years after the first findings in the outer elbe estuary off Vogelsand.

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DOI 10.1007/s10152-011-0271-2

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Dannheim, J. and Rumohr, H. (2012): The fate of an immigrant: Ensis directus in the eastern German Bight , Helgoland Marine Research, 66 (3), pp. 307-317 . doi: 10.1007/s10152-011-0271-2

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