Danger lurking below the sand

Aug 01, 2011

A voracious predator that devours prey larger than itself has been found lurking beneath Queensland's golden sandy beaches.

Waves of scurrying blue soldier are a common sight on the sand and mud flats of near Brisbane and new research led by Dr. Thomas Huelsken, from The University of Queensland's (UQ) School of , has found these crabs have a good reason to stay on the move.

Dr. Huelsken has discovered the Australian endemic moon snail, Conuber sordidus, can surge up out of the sand to grab fast moving soldier crabs. Some of the crabs caught are larger than the attacking snail.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

Capturing this behavior on film for the first time, Dr. Huelsken said the beautiful polished shells of moon snails belie their nature as vicious predators.

“Moon snails are well known for attacking other snails and bivalves and until now, moon snails have been thought to feed almost exclusively on shelled molluscs,” Dr. Huelsken said.

“This observation that they also prey on crabs is a total surprise. Moon snails have now secured their status as top of the intertidal sand flats.”

Dr. Huelsken said the slow-moving moon snails typically creep up on other molluscs, and upon reaching their prey, drill through their victim's shell, eating them alive through the hole.

“Many beaches have a littering of empty shells that have perfect round holes left by an attacking moon snail. These empty shells provide important clues for paleontologists who are studying how prehistoric molluscs interacted with each other and their environment,” Dr. Huelsken said.

“Moon snails were thought to exclusively eat other molluscs and have left clear evidence of their attack on the remaining . They have been important scientific models for understanding past predator-prey interactions.

“Now, we can surmise that paleo moon snails were probably eating crabs too, but have somehow not left a fossil record for that part of their diet.”

“This means that the fossil record of moon snail predation may not be as complete as previously believed.”

Explore further: Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

More information: www.mapress.com/mr/content/v31/2011f/n2p132.pdf

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

The beetle's dilemma

Jun 26, 2007

Large jaws are efficient in crushing hard prey, whereas small jaws are functional in capturing elusive prey. Researchers have suggested that such trade-offs between “force” and “velocity” could cause ...

Atlantic snails are increasing dramatically in size

Mar 24, 2009

A Queen's University biologist has discovered that the shell lengths of snails in the northwest Atlantic Ocean - an important member of the Atlantic food chain - have increased by 22.6 per cent over the past ...

Marine snails get a metabolism boost

May 03, 2011

Most of us wouldn't consider slow-moving snails to be high-metabolism creatures. But at one point in the distant past, snail metabolism sped up, says a new study of marine snails in the journal Paleobiology.

Ancient shrimp monster not so fierce after all

Nov 04, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- A Cambrian sea creature, Anomalocaris Canadensis, had long been thought to be a fearsome predator of trilobites, equipped as it was with barbed feelers and an armor-plated mouth, but new re ...

Recommended for you

Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —The incident was captured by Dr Bruna Bezerra and colleagues in the Atlantic Forest in the Northeast of Brazil.  Dr Bezerra is a Research Associate at the University of Bristol and a Professor ...

Orchid named after UC Riverside researcher

Apr 17, 2014

One day about eight years ago, Katia Silvera, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Riverside, and her father were on a field trip in a mountainous area in central Panama when they stumbled ...

In sex-reversed cave insects, females have the penises

Apr 17, 2014

Researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on April 17 have discovered little-known cave insects with rather novel sex lives. The Brazilian insects, which represent four distinct but re ...

Fear of the cuckoo mafia

Apr 17, 2014

If a restaurant owner fails to pay the protection money demanded of him, he can expect his premises to be trashed. Warnings like these are seldom required, however, as fear of the consequences is enough to ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Moebius
not rated yet Aug 01, 2011
Typical 'candid' nature shot. You'll notice a break in the film between where it shows the snail 'surging up out of the sand' and where it shows it capturing the crab. I think it had a little help like many of these kind of shots get on nature shows.
Simonsez
not rated yet Aug 02, 2011
"Danger lurking below the sand"

And here I thought the article would be about the discovery of Shai-Hulud.

More news stories

Plants with dormant seeds give rise to more species

Seeds that sprout as soon as they're planted may be good news for a garden. But wild plants need to be more careful. In the wild, a plant whose seeds sprouted at the first warm spell or rainy day would risk disaster. More ...

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...