Pulling or drilling, does size or species matter? An experimental study of prey handling in
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Steer, MA and Semmens, JM, Pulling or drilling, does size or species matter? An experimental study of prey handling in
Octopus dierythraeus, Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 290, (2) pp. 165-178. ISSN 0022-0981 (2003) [Refereed Article]
The influence of both predator and prey size on the shift from a pulling to a drilling predatory response was examined in the intertidal octopus Octopus dierythraeus, using an experimental program. Additionally, selective drilling, where particular regions of the prey are targeted, was examined for a variety of bivalve and gastropod prey. O. dierythraeus always initially attempted to pull bivalves apart. Shells that were eventually drilled were always subjected to significantly more pulling attempts than those that could be pulled apart, indicating that octopus are willing to expend more energy to access the flesh quickly. There was no defined threshold where bivalve size caused an octopus to switch from a pulling to a drilling response. Instead, there was a broad size range where the octopus could adopt either handling method and it varied for each individual. Octopus may only able to pull open bivalves before the molecular ratchet or 'catch' mechanism that many bivalves possess is engaged. This might explain the lack of a relationship between either octopus or bivalve size and the success of pulling, as it is likely that when the bivalves were presented to individual octopus they were either setting the 'catch' mechanism, or had already engaged it. O. dierythraeus demonstrated selective drilling on a variety of molluscan prey, with penetration sites differing between prey species. O. dierythraeus targeted the valve periphery, which was the thinnest part of the shell, therefore minimizing handling time. O. dierythraeus always drilled gastropods, but did not target the thinnest regions of the shells, with drill site varying according to the morphology of the prey. Elongate species with pronounced aperture lips were drilled in the apical region, close to the columella on the side of the opercula whereas nonelongate species were drilled immediately above the aperture. The location of drilling sites may represent a trade-off between targeting the most effective places to inject paralyzing secretions and the mechanically simplest places to drill. © 2003 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
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