One goal of conservation biology is to explain population declines. We present field survey data and experimental evidence that implicate introduced predators as a possible cause of decline in the California newt (Taricha torosa). In 1994 and 1995 we surveyed 10 streams in the Santa Monica Mountains of southern California for amphibians. These streams contained California newts when surveyed between 1981 and 1986. Of the 10 streams surveyed in 1994, three contained introduced mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis) and/or crayfish (Procambarus clarkii). These three streams contained no California newt eggs, larvae, or adults. The seven streams without introduced predators contained California newts. We conducted laboratory and field experiments to determine if California newt larvae and egg masses are susceptible to predation by mosquitofish and crayfish. Results from these experiments indicate that crayfish consume California newt egg masses and that both mosquitofish and crayfish consume larval newts. In 24‐hour field experiments, no newt larvae survived in crayfish enclosures, and only 13% of the larvae survived with mosquitofish. Newt larvae are known to have antipredator adaptations for native predators. Apparently, these adaptations are not adequate for coexistence with introduced crayfish or mosquitofish. Heavy rains in 1995 removed introduced crayfish from one stream. We found newt egg masses, larvae, and adults in that stream the following spring. This same stream showed no evidence of California newts when crayfish were present in matched‐date surveys in 1994. These experiments and surveys present evidence that predation by mosquitofish and crayfish may cause localized decline of newts in mountain streams of southern California. Understanding the effects of nonnative species is an important step in preventing detrimental introductions in the future.
Conservation Biology – Wiley
Published: Aug 1, 1996
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