Non-lethal effects of an invasive species in the marine environment: the importance of early life-history stages

Marc Rius, Xavier Turon, Dustin Marshall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Studies examining the effects of invasive species have focussed traditionally on the direct/lethal effects of the invasive on the native community but there is a growing recognition that invasive species may also have non-lethal effects. In terrestrial systems, non-lethal effects of invasive species can disrupt early life-history phases (such as fertilisation, dispersal and subsequent establishment) of native species, but in the marine environment most studies focus on adult rather than early life-history stages. Here, we examine the potential for an introduced sessile marine invertebrate (Styela plicata) to exert both lethal and non-lethal effects on a native species (Microcosmus squamiger) across multiple early life-history stages. We determined whether sperm from the invasive species interfered with the fertilisation of eggs from the native species and found no effect. However, we did find strong effects of the invasive species on the post-fertilisation performance of the native species. The invasive species inhibited the settlement of native larvae and, in the field, the presence of the invasive species was associated with a ten-fold increase in the post-settlement mortality of the native species, as well as an initial reduction of growth in the native. Our results suggest that larvae of the native species avoid settling near the invasive species due to reduced post-settlement survival in its presence. Overall, we found that invasive species can have complex and pervasive effects (both lethal and non-lethal) across the early life-history stages of the native species, which are likely to result in its displacement and to facilitate further invasion.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)873 - 882
Number of pages10
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes

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