The zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha) impacts European bitterling (Rhodeus amarus) load in a host freshwater mussel (Unio pictorum)
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The European bitterling, Rhodeus amarus, is a non-indigenous fish species in British fresh waters. It lays its eggs in unionid mussels which themselves are vulnerable to fouling by the non-indigenous zebra mussel, Dreissena polymorpha. Observations from an unmanipulated natural system showed that only 27% of zebra mussel-fouled Unio pictorum hosted bitterling, while 47% of unfouled U. pictorum hosted bitterling. We conducted a field experiment in the River Great Ouse catchment, Cambridgeshire, England in May–June 2007 and 2008 to quantify the impact of zebra mussels on bitterling load in host mussels. Zebra mussel-fouled unionids were significantly less likely to host bitterling than unfouled unionids. The number of unionids hosting bitterling did not differ significantly whether the zebra mussels fouling the unionid were alive or dead. Bitterling appeared to discriminate against zebra mussel-fouled unionids less as the 2007 breeding season advanced, potentially because preferred unfouled unionids had a higher bitterling load, and were therefore relatively lower quality hosts than at the start of the breeding season.
KeywordsInvasive species Indirect interaction Amensalism Dreissenidae
The authors would like to thank Alexandra Zieritz, Nicole Spann, Ben Phalan and Jonathan Gair for their field assistance and Erasmus zu Ermgassen for statistical assistance. We would also like to thank the Environment Agency for data, all at Jones & Sons at St. Ives marina for allowing us access, and Susannah Cass and Francesca Pilotto for assisting with the glycogen analysis. This work was funded by a Natural Environment Research Council studentship to P.S.E.z.E. (NER/S/A/2005/13273) and the British water industry. We thank Carl Smith, John Reynolds and one anonymous reviewer for their comments on earlier versions of this manuscript.
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