Physical constraints on the foraging ecology of a predatory snail

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We studied the effects of aerial exposure and high summer temperatures on the southern oyster drill (Stramonita haemastoma), feeding on the American oyster, Crassostrea virginica. In the laboratory, oyster drill feeding rates and growth were highest at 25 and 30°C, some mortality occurred at 35°C, all snails died at 40 and 45°C, and the 28-day LC50 was 35.7°C. In a second experiment where both water temperature (25 vs. 33°C) and aerial exposure were varied, only simulated tidal exposure lowered oyster drill feeding and growth rates. In field cage experiments, oyster drills had reduced feeding rates and growth at intertidal sites, but snail growth rates increased in late summer with warmer water temperature. We therefore conclude that aerial exposure, not high temperature, is the major factor limiting oyster drill feeding and growth in intertidal oyster reefs. Field experiments with partial cages also suggested that ambient predation rates were much higher at a subtidal than at a nearby intertidal site. Because southern oyster drills have depressed feeding, growth, and possibly lower fitness in intertidal oyster reefs during the summer, this reduced predation risk may provide a refuge for intertidal oysters.

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Marine and Freshwater Behaviour and Physiology

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