Indexed on: 20 Aug '13Published on: 20 Aug '13Published in: Hydrobiologia
The enemy release hypothesis states that invasive species are successful in their new environment because native species are not adapted to utilize the invasive. If true for predators, native predators should have lower feeding rates on the invasive species than a predator from the native range of the invasive species. We tested this hypothesis for zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha) by comparing handling time and predation rate on zebra mussels in the laboratory by two North American species (pumpkinseed, Lepomis gibbosus, and rusty crayfish, Orconectes rusticus) and one predator with a long evolutionary history with zebra mussels (round goby, Neogobius melanostomus). Handling time per mussel (7 mm shell length) ranged from 25 to >70 s for the three predator species. Feeding rates on attached zebra mussels were higher for round goby than the two native predators. Medium and large gobies consumed 50–67 zebra mussels attached to stones in 24 h, whereas pumpkinseed and rusty crayfish consumed <11. This supports the hypothesis that the rapid spread of zebra mussels in North America was facilitated by low predation rates from the existing native predators. At these predation rates and realistic goby abundance estimates, round goby could affect zebra mussel abundance in some lakes.