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Biol Bull January 1, 2020; 239 (3): 209-217.
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Getting Out of Arms'' Way: Star Wars and Snails on the Seashore.

Vermeij GJ .

AbstractMany shell-bearing gastropods exhibit pre-capture behaviors when encountering predatory asteroid sea stars. As shown in this meta-analysis of 48 studies on 24 sea star and 100 gastropod and chiton species, almost three-quarters of prey escape by moving or tumbling away, whereas the remaining species clamp tightly to the substratum or otherwise resist. The aim of the present paper is to correlate these behaviors with predicted shell traits, including those with gravitational stability for species that escape on the substratum and those that clamp, and those with a strongly sculptured shell in species that resist sea star attacks. Escaping species and those that clamp have gravitationally stable shells, with the center of gravity located above the broad aperture and large foot. Species that resist have significantly more sculptured shells. All of these traits would also work well in encounters with other slow-moving predators, such as gastropods and planarians. Although the sea stars are generalist predators, and the gastropods have many enemies besides sea stars, cool-water gastropods are well adapted to predatory sea stars on temperate and polar coasts, where most hard-bottom sea stars with molluscan diets occur. The prominence of escape among cool-water gastropods seems contradictory, given that locomotor speed rises with increasing temperature; but tropical gastropods rely more on armor than on escape, because of the prevalence of faster, more powerful predators in warm water. The black pigment of shells of many temperate prey species of sea stars might confer crypsis against these predators.

PubMed ID: 33347798
Article link: Biol Bull