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IUCN/SCC Otter Specialist Group Bulletin
©IUCN/SCC Otter Specialist Group

Volume 25 pages 75 - 123 (October 2008)

Citation: Weber, A. (2008). Predation of Invasive Species Chinese Mitten Crab (Eriocheir sinensis) By Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra) in the Drömling Nature Reserve, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. IUCN Otter Spec. Group Bull. 25 (1): 104 - 104

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Predation of Invasive Species Chinese Mitten Crab (Eriocheir sinensis) By Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra) in the Drömling Nature Reserve, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany

Antje Weber1

1Wildforschung & Artenschutz, Dorfplatz 6, 38486 Röwitz, Germany. e-mail: agriesau@aol.comwww.wildforschung-artenschutz.de

Antje Weber  (click for larger version)

Following a request from the IUCN Otter Specialist Group and a lot of information about predation on crabs by different otter species, this paper highlights the  importance of incidental observations in solving nutritional puzzles.

During a preliminary study at the Midland Canal in January 2007 in the Drömling Nature Reserve (Figure 1, Figure 2)  27 sprainting sites were found along 1 km of the bank with 74 spraints of Eurasian otters (Lutra lutra) containing remains of Chinese mitten crabs (Eriocheir sinensis).

Map of Germany showing the location of the nature reserve halfway between Hannover and Berlin
Figure 1. Study area

These crabs (Figure 2) were first brought to middle and north European coastal waters in the ballast of international shipping in 1930. Starting from the North Sea, the larvae migrate up the rivers and grow to be adults in about five years. Later, the crabs migrate back into brackish water in order to breed.

Vnetral view of mitten crab
Figure 2. Chinese mitten crab (Eriocheir sinensis), ventral view (click for larger version)

The Midland Canal is a European waterway, which connects the rivers Elbe and Weser (Figure 3). Several locks separate the canal from the rivers, difficult for crabs to spread past.  Somehow, they found their way into the canal and reached the study area. The Drömling Nature Reserve is a cultivated wetland containing a large number of ditches and a lot of small bodies of water. This area is covered by the Habitats Directive, having European importance for amphibians, migrating birds, Eurasian otters and European Beavers (Castor fiber albicus). It is more than 150km from the coast. In winter 2007/08, an efficiency review of otter conservation measures was carried out on a 30 km length of the Midland Canal in the Drömling Nature Reserve for the “Wasserstrassen – Neubauamt Helmstedt” (Neubauamt Helmstedt Waterways Board).

Section of riverbank showing long grass and woodland coming close to the canal bank.
Figure 3. The area studied on the Midland Canal in the Drömling Nature Reserve (click for larger version)

It is assumed that only one or two individual otters have developed suitable hunting strategy and are able to eat the big crabs (total diameter of approximately 30 cm including legs and pincers, the carapace having a diameter of approximately 8 cm). The crabs show fast reactions and are able to defend themselves with long legs and pincers.

During the study, we specifically looked for otter spraints with remains of crabs because in January 2007, 10 spraints containing crab had already been found (Figure 4).  Crab remains formed 5% to 70% per spraint in three of those samples, but were as high as 95 -100% in the remaining 7 spraints (within the ten analysed samples).

Spraint packed with fragments of crab shell
Figure 4. Spraint with remnants of crabs (click for larger version)

In winter 2008/09, no further evidence has been found despite the focused search. It is conceivable that the “successful crab hunter” isn’t here anymore, or the population of crabs is fluctuating. In autumn and winter 2005, crabs were founded in high numbers in many ditches and pre-flooders near the Midland Canal, but numbers now seem to be very low. One reason could be the predation on the crabs by carnivores and omnivores like the red fox (Vulpes vulpes), racoon dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides) or wild boar (Sus scrofa). Whether and how these species are able to catch crabs remains unanswered. Anglers are also known to kill the crabs and leave them on land so that otters and other animals could scavenge on them.

In general, this phenomenon raises a lot of questions and needs further attention.

Résumé : Prédation du Crabe Invasif Chinois (Eriocheir sinensis) par la Loutre Eurasienne (Lutra lutra) dans la Reserve Naturelle de Drömling, Saxe-Anhalt, Allemagne
Des observations préliminaires confirmées au cours de cette étude montrent que des restes de crabes chinois (Eriocheir sinensis) ont été découverts dans les épreintes de loutres eurasiennes (Lutra lutra) en 2007; nous présentons et discutons le fait qu'aucune trace de crabes chinois n'ait été découverte lors d'études menées récemment sur des épreintes de loutres.
Revenez au dessus

Resumen: Predacion de Especies Invasivas de Cangrego Chino de la Manopla (Eriocheir sinensis), por Nutria Eurasiatica (Lutra lutra), en la Reserva Natural de Drömling, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany.
Observaciones que datan de 2007 de residuos de cangrejo chino de la manopla (Eriocheir sinensis) en las heces de nutria eurasiatica (Lutra lutra) es contrastada y discutida con mas recientes observaciones donde no se encuentran rastros de cangrejo en las heces de nutria.
Vuelva a la tapa

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