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Crayfish Feeding Preferences for Freshwater Macrophytes: The Influence of Plant Structure and Chemistry

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Abstract The omnivorous crayfish Procambarus clarkii fed selectively on several species of macrophytes, preferring delicate fresh plants that had filamentous or finely-branched architectures. When the macrophytes were dried, powdered, and reconstituted into an alginate gel (thus eliminating among-species differences in physical characteristics), crayfish preferences were altered; previously tough plants that were high in nitrogen and protein were preferred over previously delicate plants that were low in nitrogen and protein. Even though plant structure influences feeding decision of crayfish, the structurally identical macrophyte gels were fed upon differently, demonstrating that nonstructural traits are important feeding determinants. However, plant tissue constituents such as nitrogen, protein, phenolics, lignin, cellulose, or ash were not significantly correlated with feeding preferences. Two high-nitrogen plants that were avoided by crayfish as fresh and as reconstituted tissue (Nuphar luteum macrophyllum and Alternanthera philoxeroides) possessed extracts that reduced crayfish feeding in laboratory assays, demonstrating that macrophyte metabolites can deter some herbivores. As is often observed with large generalist herbivores and omnivores in terrestrial and marine systems, the freshwater crayfish made feeding decisions based upon multiple plant cues (structure, nutrition, chemical defenses).

Affiliations: 1: (GC, MEH, MM, RCB, NL, MW) University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Institute of Marine Sciences, Morehead City, North Carolina 28557 U.S.A.; (GC, DML, AMH, TH) University of Notre Dame, Department of Biological Sciences, Notre Dame, Indiana 46556 U.S.A. Current addresses: (GC) Department of Biology, University of Colorado at Denver, Denver, Colorado 80217; (MEH) School of Biology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia 30332-0230; (MM) NMFS/SFSC, 75 Virginia Beach Dr., Miami, Florida 33149; (AMH) Department of Biology, The University of Louisiana at Monroe, Monroe, Louisiana 71209; (TH) Biology Department, SUNY-Oneonta, Oneonta, New York 13326; (RCB) Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Laboratory, University of California, Mammoth Lakes, California 93546; (MW) Institute of Marine Sciences, Duesternbrookerweg 20, D-24105, Kiel, Germany (Corresponding author (GC)


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