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Snail attacks pencil

By Winfried S. Peters

On the Pacific coast of Costa Rica a major predator in the community of animals living on sandy beaches is a snail, a species of Olive Shell (Agaronia propatula). This snail moves up and down the beach by ‘surfing’, extending its foot so that it is carried along in the wave swash. It is a voracious hunter and its main prey is a smaller species of Olive Shell. In its wave-washed environment it has to act quickly. It pounces on its prey, ‘swallows’ it into a pouch in its foot, then burrows into the sand where it can eat it undisturbed. A recent study by Dr Winfried Peters and his team (Indiana/Purdue University at Fort Wayne, USA, and Goldring Marine Biology Station, Costa Rica) has revealed that these predatory snails are quite indiscriminate in their attacking behaviour. They will tackle almost any moving objects including paper-clips, cotton-swabs and pencil-sized pieces of plastic, attempting to engulf them. Not even the toes of unwary bathers are safe!

Winfried S. Peters is the author of “The Behavioural and Sensory Ecology of Agaronia Propatula (caenogastropoda: olividae), a swash-surfing predator on the sandy beaches of the panamic faunal province” with Ariel Z. Cyrus, Samantha D. Rupert, Amy S. Silva, Monika Graf, Jeremy C. Rappaport, and Frank V. Paladino in the Journal of Molluscan Studies. Dr. Peters specializes in plant cell and developmental biology, focusing on the biomechanics of cells and organs; kinematic growth analysis (quantification of spatio-temporal growth patterns); long-distance transport of photoassimilates in the phloem; structure and function of calcium-driven contractile proteins in plants; history of plant physiology and cell biology.

The Journal of Molluscan Studies accepts papers on all aspects of the study of molluscs. These include systematics, molecular biology, palaeontology, ecology, physiology and many other areas. The Journal of Molluscan Studies is published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Malacological Society of London.

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