Influence of alternative shell-drilling behaviours on attack duration of the predatory snail, Chicoreus dilectus


  • Gregory P. Dietl,

    Corresponding author
    1. Center for Marine Science, University of North Carolina, Wilmington, NC 28409, U.S.A.
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  • Gregory S. Herbert

    1. Department of Geology and Center for Population Biology, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, U.S.A.
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    • G. S. Herbert, Department of Geology, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL 33620, U.S.A.

*All correspondence to present address: G. P. Dietl, Department of Geology and Geophysics, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520, U.S.A. E-mail:


Edge drilling is a form of predation in which a predatory snail excavates a hole at a point along the margin of the closed valves of a bivalved animal. We tested the hypothesis that edge-drilling attacks by the predatory snail Chicoreus dilectus on its clam prey Chione elevata shorten the duration of the predation process relative to the alternative behaviour of drilling through the prey's shell wall away from its edges. The time required to complete an edge-drilling attack was on average about three times less than when prey were attacked through the shell wall. This improvement in predation speed was a function of the thickness of the prey's shell at the point of attack. We suggest that owing to the shorter length of time required to kill prey, the edge-drilling behaviour may be selectively advantageous in environments where enemies are abundant, especially competitors that might attempt to steal prey. Behaviours that speed up the predation process may create opportunities for more effective exploitation of available prey resources in highly competitive environments.