Effect of an exotic prey on the feeding pattern of a predatory snail

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Abstract

The mussel Brachidontes pharaonis, which invaded the Mediterranean from the Red Sea about 120 years ago, has recently become abundant in many midlittoral and some infralittoral rocky habitats along the Israeli rocky shore. We investigated the influence of B. pharaonis, as a novel prey, on the foraging patterns of the large whelk Stramonita haemastoma in the field, and examined food preferences in the laboratory. S. haemastoma has shifted from indigenous species to feeding on the novel mussel when abundant. The whelk prefers to prey upon the invasive mussel over all indigenous species offered (e.g. barnacles and mussels), probably due to its larger size. In the midlittoral zone, the foraging activity of S. haemastoma is considerably low even where refuges are readily available (incisioned-rocks) and food density is high (mainly B. pharaonis). Higher proportions of whelks are actively foraging in the infralittoral zone but usually on smaller prey, mostly barnacles. We suggest that this differential foraging activity in the two zones is related to the degree of exposure to wave action. The midlittoral is inherently more exposed to wave action than the infralittoral, where sea conditions are more benign and the whelks may enjoy longer activity periods.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-98
Number of pages14
JournalMarine Environmental Research
Volume54
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2002

Keywords

  • Benthic ecology
  • Brachidontes pharaonis
  • Eastern Mediterranean
  • Effects-community
  • Feeding strategy
  • Gastropods
  • Introduced species
  • Mussels
  • Rocky shore
  • Stramonita haemastoma

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