Ecological impacts of an invasive predator explained and predicted by comparative functional responses

J.T.A. Dick, Kevin Gallagher, Suncica Avlijas, Hazel Clarke, Susan Lewis, Sally Leung, Dan Minchin, Joe Caffrey, Mhairi Alexander, Cathy Maguire, Chris Harrod, Neil Reid, Neal Haddaway, Keith Farnsworth, Marcin Penk, Anthony Ricciardi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

120 Citations (Scopus)


Forecasting the ecological impacts of invasive species is a major challenge that has seen little progress, yet the development of robust predictive approaches is essential as new invasion threats continue to emerge. A common feature of ecologically damaging invaders is their ability to rapidly exploit and deplete resources. We thus hypothesized that the 'functional response' (the relationship between resource density and consumption rate) of such invasive species might be of consistently greater magnitude than those of taxonomically and/or trophically similar native species. Here, we derived functional responses of the predatory Ponto-Caspian freshwater 'bloody red' shrimp, Hemimysis anomala, a recent and ecologically damaging invader in Europe and N. America, in comparison to the local native analogues Mysis salemaai and Mysis diluviana in Ireland and Canada, respectively. This was conducted in a novel set of experiments involving multiple prey species in each geographic location and a prey species that occurs in both regions. The predatory functional responses of the invader were generally higher than those of the comparator native species and this difference was consistent across invaded regions. Moreover, those prey species characterized by the strongest and potentially de-stabilizing Type II functional responses in our laboratory experiments were the same prey species found to be most impacted by H. anomala in the field. The impact potential of H. anomala was further indicated when it exhibited similar or higher attack rates, consistently lower prey handling times and higher maximum feeding rates compared to those of the two Mysis species, formerly known as 'Mysis relicta', which itself has an extensive history of foodweb disruption in lakes to which it has been introduced. Comparative functional responses thus merit further exploration as a methodology for predicting severe community-level impacts of current and future invasive species and could be entered into risk assessment protocols.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)837-846
Number of pages10
JournalBiological Invasions
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2013


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