Marine Biology

, Volume 148, Issue 5, pp 1021–1029 | Cite as

Feeding habits and phenotypic changes in proboscis length in the southern oyster drill, Stramonita haemastoma (Gastropoda: Muricidae), on Florida sabellariid worm reefs

  • Jeffrey T. WatanabeEmail author
  • Craig M. Young
Research Article


The southern oyster drill, Stramonita (= Thais, Kool 1987) haemastoma, is a common intertidal and subtidal predator in the southeastern United States. It uses specialized feeding structures and foraging strategies to bore holes through the shell of its bivalve prey. However, on the east coast of Florida, S. haemastoma, is common on sabellariid worm reefs constructed by the polychaete Phragmatopoma lapidosa (Walton Rocks Beach, Florida, 27°17′N, 80°12′W), a habitat where the snail’s typical prey are scarce. From 1999 to 2001, we examined the feeding habits of S. haemastoma on sabellariid reefs and the behavioral and morphological responses of S. haemastoma that accompanied switching from a diet of bivalves to sabellariids. On worm reefs S. haemastoma feeds on P. lapidosa by inserting the proboscis deep into a worm’s tube. Worm-feeding snails had longer proboscises (~3.7 times shell height) than bivalve-feeding conspecifics (~2.0 times shell height). Snails raised on different diets showed significant differences in proboscis length suggesting that the proboscis length is phenotypically plastic. Whereas typical oyster drills must bore holes for days before ingesting prey, S. haemastoma on worm reefs avoids boring and attacks and consumes worms in 15–50 min. In the laboratory, oyster drills consumed 1.7 worms per day, spending <1 h each day feeding. On sabellariid reefs, differences in feeding, handling costs, and prey value, are likely to have a significant effect on the ecology and life history of S. haemastoma in this habitat.


Bivalve Handling Time Shell Height Worm Tube Acrylic Sheet 
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We would like to thank Drs. J. Lin, R. Tankersley, and E. Irlandi for their many helpful comments and suggestions. We are grateful to Dr. G. Dietl and an anonymous reviewer whose constructive criticism helped improve and strengthen this manuscript. This paper is based on a dissertation submitted by J. Watanabe in partial fulfillment of a PhD dissertation at Florida Institute of Technology. A Conchologists of America Graduate Fellowship, the Astronaut Trail Shell Club Scholarship, and an HBOI Summer internship awarded to J. Watanabe, and grants from the National Science Foundation awarded to C. Young provided financial support for the completion of this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Harbor Branch Oceanographic InstitutionPierceUSA
  2. 2.Florida Institute of Technology, MelbourneMelbourneUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiologyOhlone CollegeFremontUSA
  4. 4.Oregon Institute of Marine BiologyCharlestonUSA

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