Chemical cue interactions between alien invasive and native aquatic gastropods in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa.
The importance of chemical cues in mediating interactions among individuals and structuring communities is being increasingly recognized in aquatic environments. Chemical cues have been shown to drive predator-prey interactions in which behavioural responses in terms of movement have been reported. The role of chemical cues in mediating interactions between heterospecific competitors, in which there is an observed behavioural response, has not been previously investigated. This research project has used the biological invasion of Tarebia granifera, a caenogastropod endemic to south-east Asia, to determine the role of chemical cues in driving displacement interactions with native gastropods within coastal lakes and estuarine environments of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, in northern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. An experimental approach was used to measure behavioural responses of gastropods to chemical cue treatments by quantifying components of movement. Responses of three dominant native gastropods within Lake St Lucia were tested in a preliminary in situ experiment. The mean Displacement, mean Number of Steps and grand mean Turning Angle were determined from recorded pathways of individual gastropods using image-processing software. Responses to chemical cues released by T. granifera were significantly different and negative in comparison to the control and conspecific chemical cue treatments. Following these results, the experiment was repeated and refined to include responses between native heterospecific gastropods from populations within the larger geographical range of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. Additionally, the case of whether the observed responses could be attributed to build up of metabolic waste products was also investigated. The results confirmed those of the preliminary in situ study. Negative responses were only reported for gastropods which did not have a shared evolutionary history with T. granifera, irrespective of metabolic waste concentrations Native gastropods moved away from chemical cues released by T. granifera using a directed orientation mechanism. Interestingly, native gastropods did not exhibit this behavioural response to chemical cues of other heterospecifics. This suggests that T. granifera has developed chemical cues under evolutionary pressure, which act as deterrent on naïve gastropods. The implications for these responses are considered within the framework of Movement Ecology with contributions to Chemical Ecology. The potential of this interaction as a mechanism of invasion to be included within spread models is discussed.