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!
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