Decoupled conservatism of Grinnellian and Eltonian niches in an invasive arthropod

Eric R. Larson, Julian D. Olden, Nisikawa Usio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Whether a species niche is conserved or shifts across space and time is a question of heightened interest in ecology and evolution. Considerable scientific inquiry into this topic has used invasive species to evaluate conservatism of the Grinnellian climatic niche while generally neglecting the Eltonian functional niche. By contrast, we report here on the first simultaneous reciprocal comparison of both the Grinnellian and Eltonian niches for the globally invasive signal crayfish Pacifastacus leniusculus between its native (Pacific Northwest of North America) and non-native ranges (Japan). Using multivariate statistics and the Maxent machine-learning algorithm, we found strong evidence for a climatic niche shift between geographic regions for P. leniusculus. Pacifastacus leniusculus shifted from warmer temperatures with strong precipitation seasonality in western North America to cooler temperatures with less precipitation seasonality in Japan. However, analysis of stable isotopes of carbon and nitrogen revealed conservatism of the functional niche of P. leniusculus between multiple lakes in the native and non-native ranges. We found that trophic position and niche width of P. leniusculus were equivalent between regions, and that niche attributes including reliance on autochthonous or allochthonous energy sources and ontogenetic shifts were comparable regardless of origin. Our finding of functional niche conservatism contrasts with the results of some recent studies evaluating the Grinnellian niche for invasive species, as well as our own climatic niche comparison, and raises the question of whether Grinnellian or Eltonian niches are more prone to shifts or conservatism. We hypothesize that the Grinnellian niche may be more labile than the Eltonian niche in general, but argue that resolving this question will require more reciprocal comparisons of Eltonian niches to keep pace with the recent increase in Grinnellian niche studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number16
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 6 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Invasive species
  • Japan
  • Niche conservatism
  • North America
  • Pacifastacus leniusculus
  • Reciprocal comparison
  • Species distribution model
  • Stable isotopes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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