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Localization of infaunal prey by the sea star Leptasterias polaris
Thompson, M.; Drolet, D.; Himmelman, J.H. (2005). Localization of infaunal prey by the sea star Leptasterias polaris. Mar. Biol. (Berl.) 146(5): 887-894.
In: Marine Biology. Springer: Heidelberg; Berlin. ISSN 0025-3162, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Thompson, M.
  • Drolet, D.
  • Himmelman, J.H.

    We performed field and laboratory studies to investigate how large adult Leptasterias polaris detect and locate their major prey, large infaunal bivalves, in the sediment bottom community. A field survey using SCUBA diving showed that 95% of the locations where L. polaris dug into the sediment bottom were over bivalves and this success rate was much greater than if digging was done at random (22%). Furthermore, when sea stars were provided with a low density of randomly distributed prey in a laboratory arena, they dug exclusively in locations where a clam had been buried. These observations indicated that L. polaris locates infaunal prey prior to investing energy into digging. Studies in a laboratory flow tank showed that L. polaris readily detected and moved towards its preferred prey Ensis directus whereas its responses to less preferred prey Mya truncata and Spisula polynyma were much weaker. The degree to which it oriented towards these three common prey seemed to reflect potential energy intake relative to foraging costs (which likely increase with the depth of the different prey) and risks from interactions with other carnivores (which are greatest when feeding on large prey). This is the first study to clearly demonstrate that sea stars use prey odours to locate infaunal prey.

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