Crayfish induce a defensive shell shape in a freshwater snail

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Abstract

Abstract. This study was undertaken to determine whether intraspecific variation in shell morphology of the freshwater snail Elimia (=Goniobasis) livescens is caused by predator-induced morphological changes. Juvenile snails from 3 populations were grown in the presence of effluent from predatory crayfish feeding on conspecific snails or in effluent from conspecific snails only. Snails from one population, Clear Creek, exhibited a predator-induced morphology; they grew a narrow body whorl when exposed to the effluent from crayfish. Experimental feeding trials with crayfish and snails from Clear Creek were conducted to determine whether a narrow body whorl reduced predation in the presence of the crayfish Orconectes propinquus. In the feeding trials, snails with a narrow body whorl were eaten less frequently than snails with wider shells. However, there was no difference in overall size (length) between snails that were eaten and those that were not. Thus, juvenile snails from Clear Creek exposed to the presence of crayfish were induced to develop relatively narrow shells, which reduce the risk of successful attack by these crayfish. Hence the induced shell morphology is probably a defense against predation by crayfish.

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