Prey preferences, consumption rates and predation effects of Asian shore crabs (Hemigrapsus takanoi) in comparison to native shore crabs (Carcinus maenas) in northwestern Europe

annika.cornelius [ at ]


The Asian brush-clawed shore crab Hemigrapsus takanoi was introduced to the northern Wadden Sea (southeastern North Sea) in 2009 and now represents one of the most abundant brachyuran crab species. Abundance studies revealed an increase of mean crab densities on mixed reefs of native blue mussels (Mytilus edulis) and Pacific oysters (Magallana gigas) from 18 individuals m−2 in 2011 to 216 individuals m−2 in 2020. Despite its current high densities only little is known about the feeding habits of H. takanoi, its effects on prey populations and on the associated community in the newly invaded habitat. We summarize results of individual field and laboratory experiments that were conducted to assess feeding habits and consumption effects caused by Asian brush-clawed shore crabs and, additionally, compare the feeding ecology of H. takanoi with the one of the native shore crab Carcinus maenas. Field experiments manipulating crab densities revealed that both crab species affected the recruitment success of blue mussels, Pacific oysters and Australian barnacles (Austrominius modestus) with highest number of recruits at crab exclusion. However, endobenthic polychaetes within the reefs were differently affected. Only the native C. maenas caused a significant reduction in polychaete densities, whereas the introduced H. takanoi had no effect. Additional comparative laboratory studies revealed that single C. maenas consume more juvenile blue mussels than Asian brush-clawed shore crabs of the same size class. When offering amphipods as a mobile prey species, we found the same pattern with higher consumption rates by C. maenas than by H. takanoi. For Asian but not for native shore crabs, we detected a sex-dependent feeding behavior with male H. takanoi preferring blue mussels, while females consumed more amphipods. Considering mean crab densities and feeding behavior, our results suggest that despite lower consumption rates of single crabs, Asian brush-clawed shore crabs can cause stronger impacts on prey organisms than the native C. maenas, because H. takanoi exceeds their densities manifold. A strong impact of the invader on prey populations is supported by low amphipod occurrence at sites where H. takanoi density is high in the study area. Thus, the introduced Asian brush-clawed shore crab is an additional consumer with significant effects on the associated community of mixed reefs of mussels and oysters in the Wadden Sea.

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Primary Division
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Helmholtz Cross Cutting Activity (2021-2027)
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Eprint ID
DOI 10.1007/s12526-021-01207-7

Cite as
Cornelius, A. , Wagner, K. and Buschbaum, C. (2021): Prey preferences, consumption rates and predation effects of Asian shore crabs (Hemigrapsus takanoi) in comparison to native shore crabs (Carcinus maenas) in northwestern Europe , Marine Biodiversity, 51 (75) . doi: 10.1007/s12526-021-01207-7

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