Effects of introduced crayfish on selected native fishes of Arizona




The virile crayfish (Orconectes virilis), an aggressive polytrophic species, has been introduced into many Arizona streams. I investigated competition and predation between this crayfish and several native Arizona fishes. I conducted field experiments to assess competition for food between crayfish and fish, and laboratory experiments to examine competition for shelter and food, and predation. In Sabino Creek, I manipulated crayfish densities in isolated pools to examine effects of crayfish on growth, mortality, and recruitment of Gila chub (Gila intermedia). Regardless of crayfish density, Gila chub declined slightly in weight and condition. Mortality and recruitment did not differ between densities of crayfish. I examined crayfish effects on benthic macroinvertebrates, a submerged aquatic macrophyte and associated invertebrates, and three fish species in a small stream in the White Mountains by fencing eight stream sections to prevent movement. The three fishes were speckled dace (Rhinichthys osculus), Sonora sucker (Catostomus insignis), and desert sucker (C. clarki). Molluscs > 10 mm and macrophytes were less abundant at sites with a high density of crayfish than at sites with low crayfish densities. Insect diversity was lower in high- vs. low-density sites. No treatment effect was observed on growth or condition of individually marked fish. Short-term laboratory experiments demonstrated predatory interactions and competition for shelter between crayfish and Gila chub, desert sucker, and speckled dace. Crayfish used shelter more than fish, displaced fish from shelter, and frequently attacked fish. Fish never attacked crayfish, and only once displaced crayfish from shelter. In predation experiments, crayfish preyed upon all species, but preyed most heavily upon desert suckers. Fish never altered use of the water column in the presence of crayfish. Density manipulation experiments in a laboratory measured food competition between crayfish and two native fishes. Growth of Gila chub was less affected by crayfish than by increased density of Gila chub. Thus crayfish are not strong competitors with Gila chub for food. However, growth of flannelmouth sucker (Catostomus latipinnis) was negatively impacted by presence of crayfish. These laboratory experiments provide evidence that introduced crayfish can reduce fish growth by competition for food, and that native fishes are vulnerable to crayfish predation.

Publication type Thesis
Publication Subtype Thesis
Title Effects of introduced crayfish on selected native fishes of Arizona
Year Published 2000
Language English
Publisher University of Arizona
Publisher location Tucson, AZ
Contributing office(s) Fort Collins Science Center
Description 170 p.
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