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The Evolutionary Ecology of European Green Crab, Carcinus maenas, in North America

  • Timothy Edgell
  • Johan Hollander
  • Bella S. galil
  • Paul F. Clark
  • James T. Carlton
Publishing year: 2011
Language: English
Pages: 641-659
Publication/Series: In the wrong place: alien marine Crustaceans - distribution, biology and impacts
Document type: Book chapter
Publisher: Springer
Additional info: Volume 6 in "Invading Nature - Springer Series in Invasion Ecology"

Abstract english

Biological invasions offer fertile grounds for studying evolutionary ecology

because species’ contact histories are uncharacteristically well-defined. As a result, invasions can be used to gain glimpses of the earliest micro-evolutionary responses of natural populations to new species’ interactions by studying changes in behaviour, physiology or morphology in space and time. Here, the known history of range expansion by the European green crab Carcinus maenas in North America is used to illustrate factors affecting invasion success and the resilience of native American prey.

We situate our discussion in the bourgeoning field of adaptive phenotypic plasticity. Phenotypic plasticity is the phenomenon where an individual’s genotype interacts with its environment to produce better-fit behaviour, physiology, morphology, or life-history. Plasticity is considered adaptive when the environmentally-induced phenotype increases an individual’s fitness. Below, theory about phenotypic plasticity is reviewed as to why it may benefit invasive species in general and specifically Carcinus maenas. The plasticity-invasion hypothesis (i.e., biological invaders benefit from high levels of phenotypic plasticity) is then tested directly by comparing known levels in C. maenas and other invaders to plasticity in a diversity of non-invasive, marine invertebrates. This study also analyses whether phenotypic plasticity has helped North American prey species defend against escalated bouts of predation caused by the C. maenas invasion, and elucidates the role plasticity plays in an apparent case of predatorprey coevolution between C. maenas and at least one species of native gastropod, Littorina obtusata. Finally, knowledge gaps in the case studies presented are discussed along with suggestions for future research aimed at gaining a better appreciation for how plasticity guides phenotypic evolution after a biological invasion.


  • Ecology


  • ISBN: 978-94-007-0591-3
  • ISBN: 978-94-007-0590-6
Johan Hollander
E-mail: johan [dot] hollander [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se


Division aquatic ecology

+46 46 222 34 73


Sölvegatan 37, Lund



Aquatic Ecology