, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp 361-381

The role of food in the dynamics of populations of the landsnail Cepaea nemoralis

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Summary

The food of the landsnail Cepaea nemoralis has been studied in natural environments.

The diet of Cepaea in nature consists predominantly of senescent or dead plant material. Green material of some species, especially Urtica dioica, is also eaten in large quantities and algae, animal remains, fungi and, possibly, living aphids and thripses are included in the diet.

The place where a snail is found during the day usually has a great predictive value for the food it ate during the preceding night. There are, however, exceptions. Species such as Aegopodium podagraria, Calystegia sepium and Phragmites communis are used very often to sit on but are hardly ever eaten. On the other hand species such as Urtica dioica and Ranunculus repens were very much favoured as foodplants but much less favoured as resting places. The distribution of the snails over the various components of the vegetation is not random and neither is the selection of food. The snail distribution does not explain the food selection or vice versa.

Quantity of food probably is hardly ever limiting for the distribution and abundance of Cepaea. Some essential components may, however, very well be in short supply and thus be limiting.