Biological Invasions

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 245–260 | Cite as

Does predator-driven, biotic resistance limit the northward spread of the non-native green porcelain crab, Petrolisthes armatus?

  • Kaitlin A. KinneyEmail author
  • Lauren M. Pintor
  • James E. Byers
Original Paper


Biotic resistance by native predators can limit the geographic range and abundance of non-native species following introduction into an ecosystem. Here we tested the hypothesis that the strength of predation pressure varies with latitude and limits the abundance and northward expansion of the non-native green porcelain crab, Petrolisthes armatus, whose northern range is also hypothesized to be limited by physical tolerances to cold temperatures. We quantified the predation risk of P. armatus across 400 km of the crab’s invasive range along the coastline of the southeastern US. In addition, we measured the density of large P. armatus, habitat quality, and other environmental factors that may affect the crab’s predation risk. Finally, we conducted a size-selective predator exclusion experiment to determine the predator species and size classes that may be consuming P. armatus. Results indicated that neither the density of large P. armatus nor its predation risk varied systematically with latitude. Instead, variation in predation risk was best explained by local site-level differences in habitat quality, the density of large P. armatus, and the mean abundance of predators. The predator exclusion experiment indicated that both small and large size classes of predators are capable of equally strong rates of predation on P. armatus. Together, our results suggest that although native predators readily consume P. armatus, they do not provide biotic resistance against its northward expansion. Instead, it seems likely that other latitudinally differential factors like low winter temperatures that decrease P. armatus survival are more influential in limiting the crab’s northern expansion.


Density dependence Enemy release hypothesis Limiting factors Range expansion Top-down effects Trophic interactions 



Funding was provided in part by an Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) SEEDS Grant to KAK and by OSU’s School of Environment and Natural Resources and the OARDC to LMP. We thank Alec Mell for assistance with running these experiments and the various institutes and organizations that allowed us access to their waters and facilities: the University of North Carolina Institute of Marine Sciences, Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, College of Charleston Grice Marine Laboratory, Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve, St. Catherine’s Island Research and Conservation, North Inlet-Winyah-Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, and Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve.

Supplementary material

10530_2018_1821_MOESM1_ESM.docx (20 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 19 kb)


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Environment and Natural ResourcesThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA
  2. 2.Odum School of EcologyUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA

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