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All's good in a famine? Hydrobia ulvae as a secondary prey for juveniles of Iceland moonsnails Amauropsis islandica at the White Sea sandflats

  • Dmitriy Aristov (a1) (a2), Marina Varfolomeeva (a3) and Georgii Puzachenko (a2)

Many size-selective predators switch their diet during ontogeny. At the White Sea, the adult moonsnails Amauropsis islandica feed mostly on Macoma balthica clams. The diet of juveniles was largely unknown. We conducted a field survey and a caging experiment to find out if juvenile moonsnails can prey on Hydrobia ulvae, and whether they prefer this snail to their usual prey. Live molluscs and their intact or perforated shells were collected from 34 sediment cores. We exposed the single-prey cages with 50 Macoma (MP) or 50 Hydrobia (HP) together with five Amauropsis juveniles, as well as the cages where both prey species were in a 25:25 proportion (HMP). While live Hydrobia was more abundant in the natural assemblages, Amauropsis preferred Macoma, as indicated by proportions of perforated shells. The caging experiment produced similar results. Per capita Macoma consumption rate was significantly higher than Hydrobia consumption rate (6.4 ± 0.5 mg day−1 ind.−1vs. 1.4±0.2 mg day−1 ind.−1 in MP and HP respectively). Prey consumption rates in the single-prey treatments were higher than in mixed-prey cages regardless of prey species. Different mechanisms explain this variation: for Hydrobia it is a consequence of the dietary shift, while for Macoma it reflects the ‘floor’ effect in HMP cages, where virtually all Macoma had been drilled by the end of exposure term. While Macoma is the preferable prey of young Amauropsis, Hydrobia can supplement the diet of juveniles when Macoma is scarce in certain locations.

Corresponding author
Correspondence should be addressed to: D. Aristov, Zoological Institute of Russian Academy of Sciences, Saint-Petersburg, Russia email:
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