{"@context":"https://schema.org","@graph":[{"@type":"Organization","@id":"https://reefs.com/#organization","name":"","url":"https://reefs.com/","sameAs":["https://www.facebook.com/reefscom","https://www.linkedin.com/company/reefs-com","http://www.youtube.com/c/Reefscom","https://www.pinterest.com/reefscom/","https://twitter.com/reefscom"]},{"@type":"WebSite","@id":"https://reefs.com/#website","url":"https://reefs.com/","name":"Reefs.com","publisher":{"@id":"https://reefs.com/#organization"},"potentialAction":{"@type":"SearchAction","target":"https://reefs.com/?s={search_term_string}","query-input":"required name=search_term_string"}},{"@type":"WebPage","@id":"https://reefs.com/2013/05/14/a-snails-babysitter/#webpage","url":"https://reefs.com/2013/05/14/a-snails-babysitter/","inLanguage":"en-US","name":"A Snail\u2019s Babysitter - Reefs.com","isPartOf":{"@id":"https://reefs.com/#website"},"image":{"@type":"ImageObject","@id":"https://reefs.com/2013/05/14/a-snails-babysitter/#primaryimage","url":"https://cdn.reefs.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/d721reef-to-rainforest.jpg","width":"142","height":"142"},"primaryImageOfPage":{"@id":"https://reefs.com/2013/05/14/a-snails-babysitter/#primaryimage"},"datePublished":"2013-05-14T15:45:43+00:00","dateModified":"2016-11-02T21:07:29+00:00","description":"A Snail\u2019s Babysitter - Whelks, Anemones, and Sea Urchins I am back to continue with my posting after an unexpected absence due to bodily self-decomposition.\u00a0 A word to the wise, don’t get old.\u00a0 Or if you do, don’t let your body know.\u00a0 It might just not like the process.\u00a0\u00a0 Anyway, on with my\u00a0 tales from the slimy lagoon… In an earlier discussion, I mentioned that aeons ago I saw large female whelks depositing egg capsule masses on one of my research sorties to \u201cmy\u201d intertidal study site near Homer, Alaska. \u00a0I found this to be very interesting, at the time I was casting around for some research to do, and here a potential easily-done\u00a0project dropped into my lap. Normally I\u00a0don’t trust to luck, but I wasn’t about to overtly examine the\u00a0buccal anatomy of\u00a0this presentation equine. \u00a0I was able to identify the animals, but, at that time, there was no record of them depositing egg capsules in a mass or otherwise.\u00a0 In point of fact, virtually nothing was known about the natural history of these beautiful whelks, an artifact of being found in an out-of-the-way place where the accumulated knowledge of such critters was minimal.\u00a0 In fact the only reason I knew the whelks were at this area was that I had taken some students down to the site the previous autumn on a class field trip. Neptunea pribiloffensis whelks on the study beach. The substrate is sandstone, and the “fuzzy” clumps are masses of a feather duster worm which is one of the common prey of the whelks. Figuring that the presence of essentially unknown animals that I was interested in learning about would lead to an easy publication, the following spring I decided to do a little bit of basic research on the snails, and went down to the site to make some field observations as well as to collect a few animals for gut analyses.\u00a0 Having examined some other Neptunea, including some specimens for this species, I knew I had to look at the gut contents to determine what they were eating rather than simply examining their feces, which was a technique I had perfected for some other snails for my doctoral research.\u00a0 Fecal analysis is a much preferred technique when compared to gut analysis, as the animal is not harmed in the process.\u00a0 However, fecal analyses require that the animal\u2019s foods leave some indigestible and identifiable trace in all the feces, and that was not the case with these animals.\u00a0 They could eat a wide variety of things, including carrion and animals possessing no hard parts at all, as well as some polychaete worms having chaetae, which would be passed through the gut undigested.\u00a0 It was during a trip for the collection of some specimens for the dietary study, that I noticed the ovipositing females. Several female Neptunea pribiloffensis depositing egg capsule masses near a large sea anemone. Obviously, this was an immediate serendipitous chance for some more and different research.\u00a0 As with every other aspect of Neptunea pribiloffensis life, virtually no aspects of their reproduction were known.\u00a0 I had budgeted a couple of days of \u201cresearch\u201d time on the beach.\u00a0 I figured I would need about fifteen minutes to collect all the animals I needed for the gut content work, but the site was beautiful and in the spring the weather was often gorgeous.\u00a0 I had been told that when the Russians owned Alaska, their anecdotal name for the Homer region was \u201c\u043b\u0435\u0442\u043e\u043c \u0437\u0435\u043c\u043b\u044f or Summer land\u201d for the nice climate- a distinct contrast to effectively everywhere else in the region.\u00a0 Consequently, I truly considered it a terrible hardship to have to make the four or five hour drive to Homer to do field work. \u00a0Given how low the tides needed to be for my research, the field work time each day didn\u2019t amount to much time being spent, which meant my assistants and I had plenty of time to work up our samples in the motel we stayed in while working there. After wandering around the study area on the couple of days I had budgeted for that research, for a total of maybe five hours of field work time.\u00a0\u00a0 I came away from the site with some facts in hand.\u00a0 First, there were a number of old egg capsule masses in the area.\u00a0 Second, the new egg capsule masses were being deposited near the old ones.\u00a0 Third, most egg capsule masses were being deposited near individuals of large sea anemone, Urticina grebelnyi, referred to at the time as Tealia crassicornis. Egg capsule masses near a large sea anemone. Note the whelk to the upper right. And my experimental \u00a0marker is indicated by the arrow. A couple of fundamental questions immediately presented themselves. \u00a0Is there any benefit for the whelk to place its egg capsule masses near the anemones?\u00a0 Likewise, is there any benefit for the anemone to have a whelk egg capsule mass near it?\u00a0 Today, it seems obvious that the answer to either or both of these questions would almost certainly \u00a0be yes, but in the late 1970s very little was known about boreal marine symbioses, in general, and specifically interactions between spawning whelks and anything, let alone anemones.\u00a0 At the time, there were no hard data either supporting or rejecting a hypothesis of benefit to either party for such an interaction.\u00a0\u00a0 And here I was, standing plumb in the middle of a wonderful opportunity in a beautiful area with the chance to address this question. So!!!\u00a0 Boy-Scientist, at the ready!\u00a0 I grabbed some buckets, my camera, my voice-activated tape recorder, a meter-stick, and kazango!\u00a0 I was research bound! Obviously, I didn\u2019t go into this situation as a na\u00efve biologist.\u00a0 I had just spent several years working at a laboratory where many researchers were studying a wide variety of marine research topics.\u00a0 As one might expect, there was a lot of cross-pollination of information and ideas.\u00a0 For example, one of my acquaintances during that time was completing the scientific description of one of the larger, previously unknown, sea anemones from that region.\u00a0 He told me that it would be called \u201cTealia piscivora\u201d, a name meaning \u201cthe fish-eating Tealia\u201d, an apt name because specimens had been found with their gut cavity full of fish; herring, as a matter of fact.\u00a0 Those data told me that the nematocysts of a sea anemone closely related to the one I was seeing in Alaska could pack a really potent sting. \u00a0And, therefore, the anemones might well be able to protect the snails\u2019 developing progeny. Two egg capsules (white arrows) near a protective anemone are intact. The green arrow indicates my experimental marker. Also, I knew from other researchers that individuals of the sea urchin species, Strongylocentrotus franciscanus, would eat the egg capsules of other whelks, and that those whelks protected their spawn by attacking any urchins that approached their egg capsules.\u00a0 Given that the \u201cgreen sea urchin\u201d Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis was common in this Alaskan intertidal habitat, not only was it was possible, indeed, it was likely, that it would eat the egg capsules and the eggs they contained if given the opportunity. An egg mass that is about a year old. The top has been eaten off by sea urchins. My working hypothesis was that the snail obtained some benefit from depositing its egg capsules near the sea anemone.\u00a0 I anticipated that I would find that the sea anemone protected the egg capsules from predation by the sea urchin, and perhaps other predators as well.\u00a0 I thought it was also likely that the sea anemone would obtain some benefit from the situation; potentially it could benefit by eating sea urchins that would be attracted to or eating the snail eggs. I immediately set about collecting some animals and egg capsule masses, and setting up some experiments both in the laboratory and in the field.\u00a0 Some of the experiments were long-term, running about a year in the field and lab, others were of shorter duration.\u00a0 When I was finished with all of the work, I thought would be able to answer many of the questions necessary to be able to assess the hypotheses. An experimental egg capsular mass is completely gone after the anemone’s removal. All that is left is my marking washer. This Snail Has Babysitters!! I found a series of statistically significant results. First, the snails were more likely to deposit their egg capsular masses near the sea anemones.\u00a0\u00a0 It takes about a year before the snails hatch from the capsular masses.\u00a0 At hatching times the capsular masses near sea anemones were bigger, had more capsules remaining in them, and fledged more juveniles than those capsular masses a short distance away from the anemones. The anemones could deter predation on the egg capsule masses in the laboratory experiments and certainly appeared to do so in the field.\u00a0 My lab tests showed that the anemones can protect the capsular masses from the sea urchin.\u00a0 Finally, the sea anemones can eat the sea urchins.\u00a0 In the lab tests and field observations indicate the major cause of capsular mortality is urchin predation.\u00a0 Lab and field experiments and observations support the hypothesis that the anemone babysitter\u00a0protects the capsular masses from predation by urchins by eating the approaching urchins. Newly hatched whelks fresh out of the capsule. All six came from one capsule. And each “corncob” like mass would average about 50 capsules. The scale is mm. This neat little series of interactions started me down the road investigating a number of significantly more interesting anemone interactions that just happen to have some of the most beautiful animals in the world as the actors in the various plays.\u00a0 More on that in the near\u00a0future. Reference: Shimek, R. L.\u00a0 1981.\u00a0 Neptunea pribiloffensis (Dall, 1919) and Tealia crassicornis (M\u00fcller, 1776), On a snail’s use of babysitters.\u00a0 The Veliger.\u00a0 24:62-66."},{"@type":"Article","@id":"https://reefs.com/2013/05/14/a-snails-babysitter/#article","isPartOf":{"@id":"https://reefs.com/2013/05/14/a-snails-babysitter/#webpage"},"author":{"@id":"https://reefs.com/author/Reef-To-Rainforest/#author","name":"Reef To Rainforest"},"publisher":{"@id":"https://reefs.com/#organization"},"headline":"A Snail\u2019s Babysitter","datePublished":"2013-05-14T15:45:43+00:00","dateModified":"2016-11-02T21:07:29+00:00","commentCount":0,"mainEntityOfPage":"https://reefs.com/2013/05/14/a-snails-babysitter/#webpage","image":{"@id":"https://reefs.com/2013/05/14/a-snails-babysitter/#primaryimage"},"keywords":"animal,king,process,research","articleSection":"Fish,Invertebrates,Too Cute"},{"@type":"Person","@id":"https://reefs.com/author/Reef-To-Rainforest/#author","name":"Reef To Rainforest","image":{"@type":"ImageObject","@id":"https://reefs.com/#personlogo","url":"https://cdn.reefs.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/d721reef-to-rainforest.jpg","caption":"Reef To Rainforest"},"description":"REEF to RAINFOREST MEDIA is an independent, award-winning publishing house based in Shelburne, Vermont founded in 2009. Reef to Rainforest publishes high-acclaimed magazines, digital content, and books for aquarists and underwater naturalists. CORAL is the world\u2019s leading marine aquarium magazine, read in English in more than 100 countries. Available in high-quality print and digital editions. AMAZONAS is the world\u2019s leading freshwater-only aquarium magazine. Both titles are originally published in German by Matthias Schmidt and Natur und Tier -Verlag, Meunster, Germany, and are now available in English in high-quality print and digital editions produced by Reef to Rainforest Media.","sameAs":[]}]}

A Snail’s Babysitter

Reef To RainforestBy Reef To Rainforest 6 years ago
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 Whelks, Anemones, and Sea Urchins I am back to continue with my posting after an unexpected absence due to bodily self-decomposition.  A word to the wise, don’t get old.  Or if you do, don’t let your body know.  It might just not like the process.   Anyway, on with my  tales from the slimy lagoon… In an earlier discussion, I mentioned that aeons ago I saw large female whelks depositing egg capsule masses on one of my research sorties to “my” intertidal study site near Homer, Alaska.  I found this to be very interesting, at the time I was casting around for some research to do, and here a potential easily-done project dropped into my lap. Normally I don’t trust to luck, but I wasn’t about to overtly examine the buccal anatomy of this presentation equine.  I was able to identify the animals, but, at that time, there was no record of them depositing egg capsules in a mass or otherwise.  In point of fact, virtually nothing was known about the natural history of these beautiful whelks, an artifact of being found in an out-of-the-way place where the accumulated knowledge of such critters was minimal.  In fact the only reason I knew the whelks were at this area was that I had taken some students down to the site the previous autumn on a class field trip. Neptunea pribiloffensis whelks on the study beach. The substrate is sandstone, and the “fuzzy” clumps are masses of a feather duster worm which is one of the common prey of the whelks. Figuring that the presence of essentially unknown animals that I was interested in learning about would lead to an easy publication, the following spring I decided to do a little bit of basic research on the snails, and went down to the site to make some field observations as well as to collect a few animals for gut analyses.  Having examined some other Neptunea, including some specimens for this species, I knew I had to look at the gut contents to determine what MORE: A Snail’s Babysitter

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  Fish, Invertebrates, Too Cute
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 Reef To Rainforest

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REEF to RAINFOREST MEDIA is an independent, award-winning publishing house based in Shelburne, Vermont founded in 2009. Reef to Rainforest publishes high-acclaimed magazines, digital content, and books for aquarists and underwater naturalists. CORAL is the world’s leading marine aquarium magazine, read in English in more than 100 countries. Available in high-quality print and digital editions. AMAZONAS is the world’s leading freshwater-only aquarium magazine. Both titles are originally published in German by Matthias Schmidt and Natur und Tier -Verlag, Meunster, Germany, and are now available in English in high-quality print and digital editions produced by Reef to Rainforest Media.

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