Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 42, Issue 2, pp 537–547 | Cite as

Spatial and Temporal Associations Between Native Crabs and the Invading Green Porcelain Crab, Petrolisthes armatus, Throughout Its Northernmost Invaded Range

  • Kevin J. MackEmail author
  • Robert D. Podolsky
  • Virginia Shervette
  • Amy E. Fowler
  • Dara H. Wilber


Increasing ocean temperatures have led to poleward range expansions of many marine organisms. The green porcelain crab, Petrolisthes armatus, was first reported on intertidal oyster reefs near Charleston, South Carolina in the mid-1990s, an expansion from its tropical to sub-tropical native range. In order to investigate the relative abundances of this introduced crab and a portion of the native crab community, resident crab assemblages were sampled on intertidal oyster reefs across four seasons from 2015 to 2016. Sampling occurred at five locations extending from Savannah, Georgia where P. armatus is now well-established, to Wilmington, North Carolina, where its inter-annual presence is intermittent. Petrolisthes armatus was the numerically dominant crab species at all locations except Wilmington, where the species was not collected in the winter. Differences between northern and southern sample locations in the taxonomic composition of crab assemblages were most pronounced in the summer (June–September) and fall (October–January), with dissimilarities largely attributed to high abundances of P. armatus at southern locations. Crab abundances of all species peaked in the summer and were lowest in the winter (February–March). Petrolisthes armatus was less abundant toward the northern range edge, whereas native crabs did not differ in abundance throughout the sampling range. Throughout the study area, adult P. armatus sex ratios shifted from unbiased or female-biased in the summer to male-biased in the fall. Adults were collected in the spring (April–June), indicating they had overwintered. While native crab densities (Panopeus herbstii, Eurypanopeus depressus) stayed relatively constant across locations, P. armatus densities varied greatly, suggesting that resources, such as shelter and food, are not limiting factors for the coexistence of these native and invading crabs.


Range expansion Oyster reef ecology Eurypanopeus Panopeus 



This work was funded by the Graduate Program of the University of Charleston, South Carolina, at the College of Charleston and by a grant from the Slocum-Lunz Foundation in cooperation with the Harry Hampton Wildlife Fund and Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation. We thank Nancy Hadley and Michael Hodges with SCDNR for assistance with identifying field sites and supplying collection trays and shell material. We thank Allan Strand and Dan McGlinn for their advice in building statistical models. We also thank Troy Alphin, Dennis Allen, Paul Kenny, Eric Haffey, Tom Bliss, Bob Allen, and Bill Hurst, who aided with transportation to field sites and lodging in the field. We also thank Ann Wassick, and the many others who volunteered to assist with processing trays. This publication represents research conducted at Grice Marine Laboratory, College of Charleston, Charleston, South Carolina.


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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Grice Marine LaboratoryCollege of CharlestonCharlestonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biology and GeologyUniversity of South Carolina SBDG 101AAikenUSA
  3. 3.Department of Environmental Science and PolicyGeorge Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA

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