A New-World Perspective on the Swash-Surfing Behavior of Intertidal Gastropods

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107th Annual Meeting of the German Zoological Society

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Georg-August-Universität, Göttingen, Germany

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Sandy beaches are demanding, physically dominated ecosystems that require special adaptations in their inhabitants. Tidal migrations of gastropods utilizing parts of their bodies as underwater sail to travel with the swash waves provide an example of a specific behavioral adaptation to this environment. Most published studies on swash-surfing gastropods focus on the South-African genus Bullia. However, swash-surfing was first described for snails from the Gulf of Mexico, and several more or less forgotten examples from the Tropical East Pacific have been mentioned in the older literature. Moreover, some monographs on South American intertidal gastropods from the 19th century show the snails in what seem to be swash-surfing postures, but details are unavailable.

Our recent studies of the sensory ecology, tidal migrations, biomechanics, and feeding behavior of swash-surfing snails in beach ecosystems of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Peru, and Texas demonstrate that numerous aspects of the ecology and behavior of Bullia, the South-African text-book cliche of a swash-surfing gastropod, cannot be generalized and transferred to new-world taxa. For example, American swash-surfing snails include suspension feeders and predators that actively hunt, but no scavengers such as Bullia that rely on dead organisms stranded on the beach. As a consequence, olfactory senses seem to play a negligible role in the tidal migrations of American species. In this contribution, we will present results from our current research, focusing on the morphological diversity of the 'underwater sails' used by different taxa, and its biomechanic consequences in an ecological context.



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