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Effect of experience on predatory behaviour of dogwhelks
Rovero, F.; Hughes, R.N.; Chelazzi, G. (1999). Effect of experience on predatory behaviour of dogwhelks. Anim. Behav. 57(6): 1241-1249.
In: Animal Behaviour. Academic Press: London,. ISSN 0003-3472, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Rovero, F.
  • Hughes, R.N.
  • Chelazzi, G.

    We used an acoustic transducer to monitor the radular activity of dogwhelks, Nucella lapillus , drilling mussels, Mytilus edulis , in the laboratory and we examined the effect of dietary experience on prey-handling behaviour. For the first time, phases of inspection, penetration and ingestion could be distinguished directly, and consequently the prey-handling process analysed in detail. Dogwhelks with different field-based experience of mussels showed different handling behaviour. Those collected from a mussel-dominated shore more readily adopted the faster method of penetrating between the slightly gaping valves, instead of the slower method of drilling through the shell. Those collected from a barnacle-dominated shore took significantly longer to attack the mussel and then were unable to switch from drilling to penetrating through the gape between valves. Experience of specific prey in the field, by reducing handling time, could promote fitness by reducing exposure to environmental hazards. Laboratory attempts to train dogwhelks from the barnacle-dominated shore to use the gape penetration method failed, suggesting that functional constraints, such as injection of a relaxant when penetrating through the gape and/or genetically controlled behavioural traits, could limit the ability to learn handling skills.

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