Reduced Competition and Altered Feeding Behavior Among Marine Snails After a Mass Extinction

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Extinction may alter competitive interactions among surviving species, affecting their subsequent recovery and evolution, but these processes remain poorly understood. Analysis of predation traces produced by shell-drilling muricid snails on bivalve prey reveals that species interactions were substantially different before and after a Plio-Pleistocene mass extinction in the western Atlantic. Muricids edge- and wall-drilled their prey in the Pliocene, but Pleistocene and Recent snails attacked prey only through the shell wall. Experiments with living animals suggest that intense competition induces muricid snails to attack shell edges. Pliocene predators, therefore, probably competed for resources more intensely than their post-extinction counterparts.

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Science, v. 306, issue 5705, p. 2229-2231