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Invasion resistance on rocky shores: direct and indirect effects of three native predators on an exotic and a native prey species

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Trophic relationships among native and exotic species produce novel direct and indirect interactions that can have wide-ranging community level effects and perhaps confer invasion resistance. We investigated whether native predators have the potential to directly limit the spread of the exotic mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis or mediate interactions among native and invasive mussels at a rocky intertidal invasion front in northern California. Lower survival of M. galloprovincialis in transplanted cultures exposed to predators indicated that the invader was more vulnerable to predators than the numerically dominant native M. californianus. Survival and per capita mortality rate in monocultures and polycultures did not vary for either M. galloprovincialis or M. californianus, suggesting that predator-mediated apparent competition and associational defense did not occur. Complementary laboratory feeding trials determined which among 3 intertidal predators preferred the exotic to 2 native species of mussel. The whelk Nucella ostrina was most selective, consuming the thinner shelled mussels (M. galloprovincialis and the native M. trossulus) rather than the thickershelled native species M. californianus. The crab Cancer antennaiius and the sea star Pisaster ochraceus showed no preferences among mussel species. N. ostrina were commonly observed among field-transplanted mussels; thus whelk prédation may be especially important in limiting the establishment of the invasive mussel. However, 15% of M. galloprovincialis remained intact in the field after 1 yr, suggesting that prédation alone may not inhibit establishment of the invader. A tenuous balance between larval settlement and early post-settlement prédation likely characterizes the invasion front. © Inter-Research 2009.

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