Species replacements among Orconectes crayfishes in Wisconsin Lakes: the role of predation by fish
To test the role of size- and species-selective predation by fishes in species replacements among congeneric crayfishes in northern Wisconsin lakes, we tethered the same three sizes of each of three species of Orconectes at six sites in the littoral zone of Trout Lake, Vilas County, Wise. Small crayfish (15–18 mm carapace length) were removed by fish at significantly higher rates than medium (23–25 mm) and large (33–35 mm) crayfish. Orconectes virilis was removed at significantly higher rates than O. propinquus and O. rusticus. These species-selection results suggest that predation by native fishes contributes to the previously documented replacement of the native crayfish O. virilis by the exotic crayfishes O. propinquus and O. rusticus. In combination with the observations of others that adult size of O. rusticus is typically larger than that of O. propinquus in northern Wisconsin lakes, our size-selection results suggest that fish predation may also hasten the ongoing replacement of O. propinquus by O. rusticus. Thus, fish predation is probably an important mechanism driving the replacement of O. virilis by O. propinquus and the replacement of both congeners by O. rusticus.