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Predatory behavior of the land flatworm Notogynaphallia abundans (Platyhelminthes: Tricladida)

By Maria E. T. Prasniski and Ana M. Leal-Zanchet


Land flatworms are carnivorous, mainly predators. However, knowledge on their predatory behavior and prey preference is very scarce. This paucity of data is a limiting factor in the study of their biology and organismal ecology, resulting in a very difficult task to breed them in the laboratory for prolonged periods if prey preference and predation frequency are unknown. We investigated the predatory behavior of Notogynaphallia abundans (Graff, 1899), Geoplaninae, based on laboratory experiments. In order to determine its predatory choices, we offered mollusks, earthworms, arthropods, and other land flatworms. Only land isopods were accepted, with an average consumption of 3.4 individuals per week. Linear regression showed a positive relationship between the number of consumed isopods and the increase/decrease in body mass. Consumption resulting in an increase in body mass was ca. four isopods per week. Predatory behavior, with a mean time-span of 28 min 45 s ± 15 min 47 s, includes encounter and capture of prey, immobilization, handling and feeding. Variation in the duration of this activity in N. abundans is clearly due to variations in the time necessary for transferring the prey from either the anterior or posterior thirds of the body to the mouth, as well as for external digestion and ingestion. In order to capture very active and fast-moving animals such as land isopods, N. abundans employs various strategies, using either the anterior or the posterior body regions to press the prey against the ground or against its own body, thus allowing it to deal with various responses by the prey, and thereby maximizing predatory success. Similar to other flatworms, both physical holding and entrapment in a mucous secretion are of fundamental importance for prey-immobilization. The different strategies employed by land flatworms in their predatory behavior are discussed, and behavioral plasticity in the capture and immobilization of prey in different platyhelminth groups is emphasized

Topics: Diet, isopods, planarians, prey preference, weekly consumption, LCC:Zoology, LCC:QL1-991, LCC:Science, LCC:Q, DOAJ:Zoology, DOAJ:Biology, DOAJ:Biology and Life Sciences
Publisher: Sociedade Brasileira de Zoologia
Year: 2009
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