, Volume 62, Issue 2, pp 162–172 | Cite as

Prey selection by thaidid gastropods: some observational and experimental field tests of foraging models

  • A. Richard Palmer
Original Papers


Field observations and experiments revealed that predatory intertidal gastropods of the genus Thais (or Nucella) were able both to recognize the expected food value of encountered prey (expected energy or growth potential gained per unit handling time) and to monitor their average yield over time (average energy or growth potential gained per unit foraging time). They appeared to discriminate not only among prey species, but also among different sized individuals of the same prey species. The evidence supporting these interpretations included: 1) field observations of snails feeding preferentially on prey types of higher expected food value even though lower value prey types were available and abundant, 2) a very limited number of direct underwater observations of foraging snails rejecting encountered items that were either of lower expected value than the item finally eaten or not measurably different from it, and 3) field (=‘arena’) experiments in which both average yield, and the distribution and abundance of potential prey were controlled: snails conditioned at a high average yield fed preferentially on high value items, while those animals conditioned at a low yield consumed prey in the proportions that they were encountered. These behaviors are all consistent with a prey-selection decision motivated by energetic considerations. Further, the field experiments indicated that these predatory gastropods could select items from a diverse array of prey so as to maximize growth in their natural environment. The behaviors were not consistent with three alternative foraging hypotheses: non-selective foraging, frequency-dependent foraging on prey types (here, sizes of particular prey species), and frequency-dependent foraging on prey species. Deviations from some of the quantitative predictions of optimal foraging theory appeared related to learning and risk.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Richard Palmer
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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