Marine Biology

, Volume 148, Issue 5, pp 1011–1019 | Cite as

Experimental prey species preferences of Hexaplex trunculus (Gastropoda: Muricidae) and predator–prey interactions with the Black mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis (Bivalvia: Mytilidae)

  • Melita PehardaEmail author
  • Brian Morton
Research Article


Hexaplextrunculus is one of the most widespread Mediterranean species of muricid gastropod and lives on rocky, sandy-mud and mud substrata. Although common in the Adriatic Sea, relatively little is known about its ecology especially feeding behaviour. The aim of this study was to explore the aspects of the feeding behaviour of H. trunculus using Arca noae, Modiolus barbatus and Mytilus galloprovincialis as experimental prey. Prey species preference, predator size, prey size choice, feeding rates, handling times and mode and place of attack were analysed. Typically, only M. galloprovincialis was attacked: A. noae rarely at the byssal gape and M. barbatus never. Small (40 mm) H. trunculus could not easily attack large M. galloprovincialis (65 mm) and preferred small (20 mm) and medium (35 mm) sized prey. Conversely, medium (55 mm) and large (70 mm) H. trunculus fed randomly on M. galloprovincialis of all three sizes. The feeding strategy adopted by H. trunculus individuals varied with respect to size. A tendency to drill the prey shell was recorded for small predators, whereas marginal chipping was adopted more frequently by large individuals. On average small, medium and large H. trunculus consumed 2.4±1.6 (range 0–4), 1.2±1.6 (range 0–4) and 2.0±2.1 (range 0–6) M. galloprovincialis, respectively. There was a statistically significant difference in prey-handling time with respect to the method of access adopted, predator and prey sizes. The time required to access a M. galloprovincialis individual by marginal chipping was considerably less than that required for drilling. H. trunculus consumed an average of 0.60±0.80 g M. galloprovincialis tissue dry weight over a 5-week period, that is, ~40% of its own tissue body weight. This translates to an average-sized (55 mm shell height) H. trunculus consuming ~18 M. galloprovincialis of 50 mm shell length (minimum marketable size) per year. H. trunculus showed no preference to drill either the left or right valves of M. galloprovincialis but generally attacked the posterior shell margin.


Bivalve Shell Length Prey Size Shell Height Bivalve Species 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This research was financed by Croatian Ministry of Science and Technology. Authors are grateful to Nika Stragličić and Mark Prime for their technical assistance. The experiments conducted comply with the current laws of Republic of Croatia.


  1. Andreotti A, Bonaduce A, Colombini MP, Ribechini E (2004) Characterisation of natural indigo and shellfish purple by mass spectrometric techniques. Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom 18:1213–1220CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ansell AD, Morton B (1987) Alternative predation tactics of a tropical naticid gastropod. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 111:109–119CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Axiak V, Vella AJ, Micallef D, Chircop P, Mintoff B (1995) Imposex in Hexaplex trunculus (Gastropoda, Muricidae)—first results from biomonitoring of tributyltin contamination in Mediterranean. Mar Biol 121:686–691CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Axiak V, Vella AJ, Agius D, Bonnici P, Cassar G, Cassone R, Chircop P, Micallef D, Mintoff B, Sammut M (2000) Evaluation of environmental levels and biological impact of TBT in Malta (central Mediterranean). Sci Total Environ 258:89–97CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Axiak V, Micallef D, Muscat J, Vella A, Mintoff B (2003) Imposex as a biomonitoring tool for marine pollution by tributyltin: some further observations. Environ Int 28:743–749CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Benović A (1997) The history, present condition, and future of the molluscan fisheries of Croatia. In: MacKenzie CL Jr, Burrell VG Jr, Rosenfield A, Hobart WL (eds) The history, present condition, and future of the molluscan fisheries of North and Central America and Europe, vol 3, Europe. NOAA Technical Report NMFS 129. U.S. Department of Commerce, pp 217–226Google Scholar
  7. Brown KM, Alexander JE (1994) Group foraging in a marine gastropod predator: benefits and costs to individuals. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 112:97–105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cantillana P, Inestrosa NC (1993) Presence of an heparin binding growth factor in Concholepas concholepas Bruguire (Mollusca, Gastropoda, Muricidae). J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 171:239–250CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Carriker MR (1981) Shell penetration and feeding by naticacean and muricacean predatory gastropods: a synthesis. Malacologia 20:403–422Google Scholar
  10. Chiavarini S, Massanisso P, Nicolai P, Nobili C, Morabito R (2003) Butyltins concentration levels and imposex occurrence in snails from the Sicilian coasts (Italy). Chemosphere 50:311–319CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dietl GP (2003) Coevolution of a marine gastropod predator and its dangerous bivalve prey. Biol J Linn Soc 80:409–436CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dietl GP, Herbert GS (2005) Influence of alternative shell-drilling behaviours on attach duration of the predatory snail Chicoreus dilectus. J Zool Lond 265:201–206CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dietl GP, Herbert GS, Vermeij GJ (2004) Reduced competition and altered feeding behavior among marine snails after a mass extinction. Science 306(5705):2229–2231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gordillo S (2001) Marcas de la depredaciόn de Acanthina Fischer von Waldheim, 1807 (Gastropoda: Muricidae) sobre Bivalvia. Ameghiniana 38:55–60Google Scholar
  15. Gutiérrez R.M, Gallardo CS (1999) Prey attack, food preference and growth in juveniles of the edible muricid snail, Chorus giganteus. Aquaculture 174:69–79CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Harper EM (1997) The molluscan periostracum: an important constraint in bivalve evolution. Palaeontology 40:71–97Google Scholar
  17. Harper EM, Morton B (1997) Muricid predation upon an under-boulder community of epibyssate bivalves in the Cape d’Aguilar Marine Reserve, Hong Kong. In: Morton B (ed) The marine flora and fauna of Hong Kong and Southern China IV. Proceedings of the eight international marine biological workshop: the marine flora and fauna of Hong Kong and Southern China, Hong Kong 1995, pp 263–284Google Scholar
  18. Harper EM, Peck L (2003) Predatory behaviour and metabolic costs in the Antarctic muricid gastropod Trophon longstaffi. Polar Biol 26:208–217Google Scholar
  19. Harper EM, Skelton PW (1993) A defensive value for the thickened periostracum of the Mytiloidea. Veliger 36:51–57Google Scholar
  20. Hughes RN, Drewett D (1985) A comparison of the foraging behaviour of dogwhelks, Nucella lapillus (L.) feeding on barnacles or mussels on the shore. J Moll Stud 51:73–77CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hughes RN, de Dunkin SB (1984) Behavioural components of prey selection by dogwhelks, Nucella lapillus (L.), feeding on mussels Mytilus edulis L. in the laboratory. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 77:45–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lorenzini G, Orlando E (1997) Observation on feeding behaviour in Hexaplex trunculus (Mollusca, Gastropoda, Muricidae) (in Italian). Biol Mar Medit 4:405–406Google Scholar
  23. Marin A, López Belluga MD (2004) Sponge coating decreases predation on the bivalve Arca noae. J Moll Stud 71:1–6CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Menge JL (1974) Prey selection and foraging period of the predaceous rocky intertidal snail, Acanthina punctulata. Oecologia 17:293–316CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Morton B (1999) Competitive grazers and the predatory whelk Lepsiella flindersi (Gastropoda: Muricidae) structure a mussel bed (Xenostrobus pulex) on a southwest Australian shore. J Moll Stud 65:435–452CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Morton B (2004) Predator–prey interactions between Lepsiella vinosa (Gastropoda: Muricidae) and Xenostrobus inconstrans (Bivalvia: Mytilidae) in a southwest Australian marsh. J Moll Stud 70:237–245CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Morton B, Britton JC (1993) The ecology, diet and foraging strategy of Thais orbita (Gastropoda: Muricidae) on a rocky shore of Rottnest Island, Western Australia. In: Wells FE, Walker DI, Kirkman H, Lethbridge R (eds) Proceedings of the fifth international marine biological workshop: the marine flora and fauna of Rottnest Island, Western Australia. Western Australian Museum, Perth, pp 539–563Google Scholar
  28. Morton B, Peharda M (2006) The biology and functional morphology of Arca noae (Bivalvia: Arcidae) from the Adriatic Sea, Croatia, with a discussion on the evolution of the bivalve mantle margin. Acta Zool (Stockholm) (submitted)Google Scholar
  29. Nasution S, Roberts D (2004) Laboratory trials on the effects of different diets on growth and survival of the common whelk, Buccinum undatum L. 1758, as a candidate species for aquaculture. Aquac Int 12:509–521CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Peharda M (2003) Spatial distribution and composition of natural bivalve (Mollusca, Bivalvia) populations in Mali Ston Bay (in Croatian). PhD Thesis, University of Zagreb, pp 112Google Scholar
  31. Richardson CA, Peharda M, Kennedy HA, Kennedy P, Onofri V (2004) Age, growth rate and season of recruitment of Pinna nobilis in the Croatian Adriatic determined from Mg:Ca and Sr:Ca shell profiles. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 299:1–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Rilov G, Benayahu Y, Gasith A (2004) Life on the edge: do biomechanical and behavioural adaptations to wave-exposure correlated with habitat partitioning in predatory whelks? Mar Ecol Prog Ser 282:193–204CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Rodriguez L, Daneri G, Torres C, Leon M, Bravo L (2001) Modeling the growth of the Chilean loco, Concholepas concholepas (Bruguiere, 1789) using a modified Gompertz-type function. J Shellfish Res 20:309–315Google Scholar
  34. Rovero F, Hughes RN, Chelazzi G (1999a) Effect of experience on predatory behaviour of dogwhelks. Anim Behav 57:1241–1249CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Rovero F, Hughes RN, Chelazzi G (1999b) Cardiac and behavioural responses of mussels to risk of predation by dogwhelks. Anim Behav 58:717–714CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Sokal RR, Rohlf FJ (1995) Biometry. W.H. Freeman, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  37. Taylor JD (1998) Understanding biodiversity: adaptive radiations of predatory marine gastropods. In: Morton B (ed) The marine biology of the South China Sea. Proceedings of the third international conference on the marine biology of the South China Sea, Hong Kong 1996. Hong Kong University Press, Hong Kong, pp 187–206Google Scholar
  38. Taylor JD, Morton B (1996) The diets of predatory gastropods in Lobster Bay, Cape d’Aguilar, Hong Kong. Asian Mar Biol 13:141–165Google Scholar
  39. Terlizzi A, Geraci S, Minganti V (1998) Tributyltin (TBT) pollution in the coastal waters of Italy as indicated by imposex in Hexaplex trunculus (Gastropoda, Muricidae). Mar Pollut Bull 36:749–752CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Terlizzi A, Geraci S, Gibbs PE (1999) Tributyltin (TBT)-induced imposex in the Neogastropod Hexaplex trunculus in Italian coastal waters: morphological aspects and ecological implications. Ital J Zool 66:141–146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Terlizzi A, Delos AL, Garaventa F, Faimali M, Geraci S (2004) Limited effectiveness of marine protected areas: imposex in Hexaplex trunculus (Gastropoda, Muricidae) populations from Italian marine reserves. Mar Pollut Bull 48:188–192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Urrutia GX, Navarro JM (2001) Patterns of shell penetration by Chorus giganteus juveniles (Gastropoda: Muricidae) on the mussel Semimytilus algosus. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 258:141–153CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Vermeij GJ (1980) Drilling predation in a population of the edible bivalve Anadara granosa (Arcidae). Nautilus 94:123–125Google Scholar
  44. Vermeij GJ, Kool SP (1994) Evolution of labral spines in Acanthais, new genus, and other rapaning muricid gastropods. Veliger 37:414–424Google Scholar
  45. Williams DA (1976) Improved likelihood ratio tests for complete contingency tables. Biometrika 63:33–37CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Zavodnik D, Šimunović A (1997) Beskralješnjaci morskog dna Jadrana. Svjetlost, SarajevoGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Oceanography and FisheriesSplitCroatia
  2. 2.Department of ZoologyThe Natural History MuseumLondonUK

Personalised recommendations