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Feeding dynamics of invasive (Tarebia granifera) and native (Melanoides tuberculata) freshwater gastropods.

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Tarebia granifera has invaded several South African estuaries, outnumbering native gastropods such as Melanoides tuberculata. Comparative feeding dynamics can aid in estimating and understanding invasion impacts. This study aimed to explore the feeding dynamics of these gastropods with the use of two different approaches. Stable Isotope Analyses (SIAs) were used to investigate the dietary preferences and niche overlaps in the St Lucia Estuary, while Functional Response Experiments measured the relationship between the consumption rate of a food resource and its availability. These experiments were run both with and without the presence of heterospecific chemical cues (secondary metabolites secreted by either species) to determine whether chemical cues influence the functional responses of T. granifera and M. tuberculata. Mixed species experiments were also conducted to observe individual behaviour (active, inactive and feeding) over time and measure resource consumption when both species are placed together under high and low food availability. The SIA showed that both gastropods exhibited generalist diets, however, due to niche partitioning, there was no significant difference in their dietary niche overlap. In the FR experiments, both species exhibited Type II FRs and had similar feeding rates. However, in the presence of heterospecific chemical cues, M. tuberculata exhibited a higher feeding rate at high food availabilities, whereas T. granifera showed efficient feeding dynamics under limited food resources. In the mixed species experiments, T. granifera spent more time feeding under low food availability while M. tuberculata spent more time feeding under high food availability. This study showed that in certain conditions (e.g. high resource availability) the alien species did not always have a feeding advantage. A multiple method approach is recommended when assessing ecological impacts of invasive species.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.