Predation on snails by three species of triclad and its bearing on the distribution of Planaria torva in Britain

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Abstract

Dugesia polychroa, D. lugubris and Planaria torva preyed upon snails of differing morphologies and while the Dugesia spp. fed approximately in proportion to snail abundance, PL torva was more selective on Potamopyrgus jenkinsi. The incidence of feeding on four snail taxa by the Dugesia spp. was significantly correlated and differed strikingly from that of PI. torva where feeding was related to its annual life cycle. Large peaks of feeding coincided in the Dugesia spp. for the four snail types; this was attributed to snail vulnerability being increased by environmental disturbance. Comparison of feeding by Dugesia spp. in the presence and absence of PI. torva indicated that severe competition was occurring for food with PI. torva having a food refuge in P. jenkinsi. The distribution of PI. torva in Britain is largely confined to productive habitats in the Glasgow-Edinburgh and East Anglia regions. It is concluded that historical rather than ecological events have played the major part in its distribution to date. The strong association of PL torva with port areas and the canal system suggests that it is a recent introduction via the timber trade with Fennoscania.

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