Trophic positions of omnivores are not always flexible: Evidence from four species of freshwater crayfish

  • Johnston K
  • Robson B
  • Fairweather P
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Omnivores are generally believed to be flexible in their diet and trophic position: seasonal, ontogenetic and site-based differences in trophic position have been observed.We compared consumed and assimilated diet among four species within a group of omnivorous freshwater crayfish, to determine whether species that occur together at a site occupy different trophic positions. Diets of Geocharax falcata, Gramastacus insolitus, Cherax destructor and Euastacus bispinosus (Decapoda: Parastacidae) were compared using stable isotopes (d13 C and d15 N) and gut content analysis across nine sites that varied in their species composition. Gramastacus insolitus consumed mainly plant material across all sites. Geocharax falcata consumed either plants or animals or both at different sites. Its trophic level was consistently similar to G. insolitus, despite differences in gut contents and source for dietary carbon. Cherax destructor consumed animals and had a relatively stable trophic position among sites. Relative trophic position of these three species was consistent across sites and regardless of food consumed, they were positioned as omnivores at a lower trophic level than predators but higher than primary producers and herbivores. Euastacus bispinosus occupied a higher trophic level than other invertebrate species but d13 C levels did not differ among sites. Cherax destructor and G. falcata may show flexibility in food sources and in the assimilation of food that determines their trophic position relative to other crayfish species. In contrast,G. insolitus and E. bispinosus are likely to show both a more fixed diet and less flexible trophic position.Therefore, not all omnivores show the flexible diet and trophic position generally reported in the literature. Some species of omnivorous crayfish may maintain a relatively constant trophic position across sites, seasons or changes in food availability regardless of whether their consumed diet alters or not.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Cherax destructor
  • Coexistence
  • Euastacus bispinosus
  • Geocharax falcata
  • Gramastacus insolitus

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  • Kerrylyn Johnston

  • Belinda J. Robson

  • Peter G. Fairweather

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