Substrate preferences of coexisting invasive amphipods, Dikerogammarus villosus and Dikerogammarus haemobaphes, under field and laboratory conditions

Two Ponto-Caspian amphipods, Dikerogammarus villosus and Dikerogammarus haemobaphes, have expanded their geographical ranges from eastern Europe into Great Britain in recent years. This study represents one of the first examining the distribution and habitat preferences of coexisting populations of D. haemobaphes and D. villosus via field and laboratory experiments in the UK. Field surveys of a recently invaded lowland reservoir in the UK are complimented with ex situ laboratory mesocosm experiments examining the substrate preferences of coexisting populations of D. villosus and D. haemobaphes. Results from the field study indicated that D. haemobaphes dominated the macroinvertebrate community within the reservoir and demonstrated a strong affinity for large cobble and artificial substrates. D. villosus occurred at lower abundances but displayed a strong preference for coarse cobble substrates. A third invasive amphipod, Crangonyx pseudogracilis, was largely confined to sand/silt habitats. Laboratory mesocosm experiments clearly supported the field observations of D. villosus and D. haemobaphes with both species demonstrating a preference for cobble substrates. Results from the study highlight the importance of characterising physical habitat when investigating biological invasions and suggest that habitat availability may influence the extent and speed at which range expansion of new amphipod invaders occurs.