DISTRIBUTION AND REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY OF AUSTROPOTAMOBIUS TORRENTIUM IN BAVARIA AND DOCUMENTATION OF A CONTACT ZONE WITH THE ALIEN CRAYFISH PACIFASTACUS LENIUSCULUS
In Bavarian freshwater systems, the stone crayfish Austropotamobius torrentium is still present in many headwaters of Danubian tributaries. Since the 1960s an alien species, the signal crayfish Pacifastacus leniusculus, was introduced several times independently in Germany. Compared to the previously introduced Orconectes limosus, this species also invaded higher reaches of freshwater streams, thereby becoming a direct competitor of A. torrentium. In addition, it carried the crayfish plague, Aphanomyces astaci, which is lethal to European species. So far, there are only few documented populations of Pacifastacus leniusculus from upper streams in Bavaria and to our knowledge no reports of coexistence with the stone crayfish, which may be outcompeted by this much larger species due to direct interactions or reproductive superiority. In this study, we document the distribution of the stone crayfish in Bavaria and give evidence for a contact zone of Austropotamobius torrentium and apparently uninfected Pacifastacus leniusculus in the western Bavarian Forest, with a limited range of overlap and a slow upward displacement of the native species in the time frame of three years. Comparative studies of reproductive biology in the field and in the laboratory showed higher fecundity, faster juvenile growth and earlier hatching of the introduced species. These new aspects of the biology of the two involved species suggest an ecological superiority of P. leniusculus and may explain the long-term displacement of the native species, even in the absence of the crayfish plague Aphanomyces astaci.