Moon snails Amauropsis islandica can shape the population of Baltic clams Limecola balthica by size-selective predation in the high-latitude White Sea

  • Dmitriy AristovEmail author
  • Marina Varfolomeeva
Original Paper


Relative importance of biotic factors (i.e., predation) in shaping community structure at high-latitude marine habitats is likely underestimated due to lack of relevant research. Size-selective predation on dominant species can strongly affect the demography of the prey resulting in indirect community-wide effects. Moon snails (Naticidae: Gastropoda) drill shells of other mollusks, and their feeding habits are thus comparatively easy to trace. Here we test the predation of the Iceland moon snail Amauropsis islandica, preying upon the Baltic tellin Limecola balthica, for size-selectivity in the high-latitude White Sea, combining caging experiments and a 17-years’ survey. The results from both data sources confirm that drilled valves of Limecola are generally larger than living clams. Sizes of the drillholes on the Limecola shells in the sediments evidence that with increasing predator size its’ size-selectivity shifts towards bigger prey, and larger range of sizes becomes available for consumption (0.5–7 mm range for the 2.5 mm Amauropsis and 4–20 mm for the 22.5 mm Amauropsis). In the caging experiment, larger Limecola (>8 mm length) are more likely consumed by larger predators (12.1–14.8 mm in height) than by smaller ones (7.1–8.6 mm in height). Size-selective predation by Amauropsis could shape Limecola population as evidenced by the size variation of potentially edible Limecola clams in samples with different density and size of Amauropsis. Since the large Limecola clams may have different ecological functions than small ones, Amauropsis could indirectly influence the intertidal community structure.


Size-selective predation Ontogenetic diet shift Caging experiments Long-term studies White sea 



Authors thank the authorities of Kanadalaksha State Reserve (Murmansk region, Russia) who granted access to the protected study area; Dr. Vadim Khaitov who helped with the field sampling and data analysis; Egor Sergeenko who helped in conducting the field experiments and collecting the data; and all students of Laboratory of Marine Benthic Ecology and Hydrobiology for their help in sampling and sorting during the long-term field survey. We gratefully acknowledge the reviewers (Dr. Jeff Clements, Dr. Melissa Grey, and a reviewer who remained anonymous) for valuable comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. We thank Dr. Alexey Sukhotin, Dr. Eugene Yakovis, and Dr. Melissa Grey for their kind help with language corrections.


The project was partly supported by the Russian Fund of Basic Research grant 18-34-00405, and by the ongoing Program of the Russian Academy of Sciences “Functioning and dynamics of subarctic and Arctic marine ecosystems” (AAAA-A17-117021300220-3).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have declared that no conflicts of interest exist.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary file1 (XLS 768 kb)
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Zoological Institute of Russian Academy of SciencesSaint-PetersburgRussia
  2. 2.Laboratory of Marine Benthic Ecology and HydrobiologySaint-PetersburgRussia
  3. 3.Saint-Petersburg State UniversitySaint-PetersburgRussia

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