Differences in anti-predator traits of a native bivalve following invasion by a habitat-forming seaweed
Invasive habitat-forming species cause large changes to the abiotic environment, which may lead to lethal and sublethal effects on native fauna. In this study, we tested whether morphological anti-predator traits of an infaunal bivalve, Anadara trapezia, differed between areas invaded by the habitat-forming seaweed Caulerpa taxifolia and uninvaded habitats in estuaries in New South Wales, Australia. Caulerpa changes the abiotic environment in ways that may affect traits of native species. In particular, there is lower water flow, lower dissolved oxygen in the water and sediments are more silty and anoxic than in unvegetated habitat. To test our hypotheses, we collected Anadara from Caulerpa and uninvaded habitats and measured shell thickness, shell strength and resistance to opening of valves. We found that all three traits were reduced in Anadara from Caulerpa habitat compared with Anadara from uninvaded habitats. These findings are consistent with the idea that trait modifications in native fauna in response to invasive habitat-forming species can potentially increase susceptibility to predation.