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PLoS One. 2009;4(4):e5345. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0005345. Epub 2009 Apr 29.

Stoichiometric constraints do not limit successful invaders: zebra mussels in Swedish lakes.

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  • 1Department of Ecology and Evolution/Erken Laboratory, Evolutionary Biology Centre, Uppsala University, Norrtälje, Sweden. rahmat.naddafi@ebc.uu.se



Elemental imbalances of carbon (C): nitrogen (N): phosphorus (P) ratios in food resources can constrain the growth of grazers owning to tight coupling between growth rate, RNA allocation and biomass P content in animals. Testing for stoichiometric constraints among invasive species is a novel challenge in invasion ecology to unravel how a successful invader tackles ecological barriers in novel ecosystems.


We examined the C:P and N:P ratios and the condition factor of a successful invader in lakes, the zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha), collected from two Swedish lakes. Concurrently, we analyzed the elemental composition of the food (seston) and tissue of the mussels in which nutrient composition of food and mussels varied over time. Zebra mussel condition factor was weakly related to the their own tissue N:P and C:P ratios, although the relation with the later ratio was not significant. Smaller mussels had relatively lower tissue N:P ratio and higher condition factor. There was no difference in C:P and N:P ratios between seston and mussels' tissues. Our results indicated that the variation in nutrient stoichiometry of zebra mussels can be explained by food quality and quantity.


Our study suggests that fitness of invasive zebra mussels is not constrained by nutrient stoichiometry which is likely to be important for their proliferation in novel ecosystems. The lack of imbalance in C:P and N:P ratios between seston and mussels along with high tissue C:P ratio of the mussel allow them to tolerate potential P limitation and maintain high growth rate. Moreover, zebra mussels are able to change their tissue C:P and N:P ratios in response to the variation in elemental composition of their food. This can also help them to bypass potential nutrient stoichiometric constraints. Our finding is an important step towards understanding the mechanisms contributing to the success of exotic species from stoichiometric principles.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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