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Effects of Three Orconectes Crayfishes On Epilithic Microalgae: a Laboratory Experiment

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[We tested the implications of littoral zone food web changes for periphyton abundance by comparing algal removal rates of three Orconectes crayfishes and a grazing snail (Amnicola sp. or spp.) in a laboratory experiment. Periphyton communities were established on unglazed clay tiles incubated in grazer free enclosures in the littoral zone of Carrol Lake, Wisconsin. In the laboratory, tiles were placed in individual arenas that were randomly assigned to one of four grazing treatments or a control treatment. After 96 h, total algal biovolume was reduced except by O. rusticus. However, when algal removal rates were expressed as per unit shell-free dry weight, Amnicola removal rates were at least 17 × higher than that of any crayfish. These data are consistent with previous field observations that show snails remove (primarily grazing) periphyton more efficiently than crayfish. Combined with previous work on crayfish predation on snails, our results suggest that crayfishes have a strong indirect positive effect on periphyton by reducing snail abundances, whereas the direct effects due to crayfish grazing are minimal., We tested the implications of littoral zone food web changes for periphyton abundance by comparing algal removal rates of three Orconectes crayfishes and a grazing snail (Amnicola sp. or spp.) in a laboratory experiment. Periphyton communities were established on unglazed clay tiles incubated in grazer free enclosures in the littoral zone of Carrol Lake, Wisconsin. In the laboratory, tiles were placed in individual arenas that were randomly assigned to one of four grazing treatments or a control treatment. After 96 h, total algal biovolume was reduced except by O. rusticus. However, when algal removal rates were expressed as per unit shell-free dry weight, Amnicola removal rates were at least 17 × higher than that of any crayfish. These data are consistent with previous field observations that show snails remove (primarily grazing) periphyton more efficiently than crayfish. Combined with previous work on crayfish predation on snails, our results suggest that crayfishes have a strong indirect positive effect on periphyton by reducing snail abundances, whereas the direct effects due to crayfish grazing are minimal.]

Affiliations: 1: Biology Department, Grand Valley State University, Allendale, Michigan 49401, U.S.A.; 2: Department of Biological Sciences, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana 46556, U.S.A.

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