Community disruption in small biogenic habitats: A coastal invader overcomes habitat complexity to alter community structure

Andrey V. Malyshev, Paula Tummon Flynn, Ruth Cox, Cristian Duarte, Pedro A. Quijon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Non-indigenous species are often identified as threats to native species and communities. Yet, the mechanisms that enable many of these invaders to thrive and alter their newly invaded habitats are still not fully understood. This applies to habitats such as widespread sedimentary shorelines characterized by the presence of scattered biogenic clumps of blue mussels (Mytilus edulis) structurally more complex than bare sediments. In Atlantic Canada, some of these shorelines are numerically dominated by native mud crabs (Dyspanopeus sayi) but have been gradually invaded by the European green crab (Carcinus maenas). This study describes between-habitat (mussel clump vs. bare sediment) differences in density and diversity of invertebrates. It also tests the impact of juvenile green crabs in comparison to native mud crabs using two approaches: First, measuring habitat-related differences in these crabs' feeding rates on a common prey (soft-shell clams, Mya arenaria). Second, measuring their influence on invertebrate communities associated with mussel clumps. The results show that mussel clumps hold higher invertebrate density and diversity than surrounding sedimentary bottoms. In the laboratory, the feeding rates of native mud crabs were dependent on the type of habitat (sand flat > mussel clump), whereas those of green crabs were significantly higher and unrelated to the habitat in which predation occurred. In field experiments, juvenile green crabs were also the only predators that changed community structure in the mussel clump habitat. These results indicate that green crabs can cause a significant impact on native species and communities. Moreover, they suggest that the ability of this species to overcome the refuge provided by complex biogenic habitats for prey may represent an unexplored mechanism to explain this invader's expansion here and elsewhere.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0241116
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number10 October
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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