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Traces of Naticid Predation on the Gryphaeid Oyster Pycnodonte dissimilaris: Epifaunal Drilling of Prey in the Paleocene

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Traces of drilling predation by naticid gastropods were observed on 51 valves of the free-lying, semi-infaunal oyster Pycnodonte dissimilaris (Gryphaeidae) from the Paleocene Hornerstown Formation, in New Jersey. Stereotypic behavior of the predator is indicated by the highly constrained placement of drill holes, 94% of which are centrally located on the oyster shells. Predator-prey mismatches in size, involving small predators that drilled through the upper valves of relatively large oysters, are documented by comparison of outer borehole diameter, as an index of predator size, with the sizes of the oyster shells. Results of this analysis suggest that at least some prey were drilled epifaunally, as they were too large to be manipulated and buried by the predator. This indicates, together with reports of epifaunal drilling by living naticids, that such behavior is geographically and stratigraphically more widespread in the Naticidae than has previously been acknowledged. This in turn suggests that epifaunal drilling of prey is a plesiomorphic, opportunistic mode of behavior, conserved in the evolution of the Naticidae, that has permitted subsequent escalation or expansion in range of naticid foraging from a more narrowly defined infaunal paradigm into exposed intertidal refugia.
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Keywords: Gryphaeidae; Naticidae; Predation; Predator-prey; Reclining oysters

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2003-08-01

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