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Ecology, management and conservation in natural and modified habitats

Aggressive interactions between freshwater turtle, Chelodina oblonga, hatchlings and freshwater crayfish, Cherax spp.: implications for the conservation of the critically endangered western swamp turtle, Pseudemydura umbrina

P. Bradsell, J. Prince, G. Kuchling and B. Knott

Wildlife Research 29(3) 295 - 301
Published: 07 October 2002


Interactions between turtle hatchlings of Chelodina oblonga and the marron, Cherax tenuimanus, the gilgie, C. quinquecarinatus, the koonac, C. preissii (freshwater crayfish native to Western Australia) and the introduced yabby, Cherax. sp., were observed in laboratory-based trials in uncluttered aquaria.

Marron, koonacs and yabbies, but not gilgies, showed aggressive and predatory behaviour towards the hatchlings. In total, 59 attacks were observed in 26 of the 80 trials. On 12 occasions, crayfish captured hatchlings in their chelae. On two occasions, the attack of the crayfish was so quick that the hatchling was killed instantly. Compared with movement when alone, movement of hatchlings was significantly greater in the presence of koonacs and yabbies, but significantly less in the presence of marron and gilgies.

The range of non-native yabbies currently is expanding into Ellen Brook Nature Reserve which harbours the last naturally persisting population of the critically endangered western swamp turtle, Pseudemydura umbrina. No native crayfish occur in the habitat of P. umbrina in this reserve. The possible invasion by the ecological generalist yabby poses a new threat to the survival of P. umbrina.

© CSIRO 2002

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