Graduation Year

2008

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.S.

Degree Granting Department

Geology

Major Professor

Gregory S. Herbert, Ph.D.

Keywords

Chione, Extinction, Gastropod, Prey-density, Stereotypy

Abstract

Previous study of drilling predation on the bivalve Chione during the late Neogene of Florida suggested that prey-size selectivity of predators was disrupted by species turnover and morphological change within the prey genus. More recent experimental work, however, showed that at least some of these changes can be attributed to the confounding effects of facies shifts between naticid-dominated, muricid-dominated, and mixed predator assemblages. As muricids have the most abundant and continuous fossil record and are most responsible for predation on the Chione bivalve in modern benthic ecosystems of Florida, we use new criteria to isolate the muricid component of the Chione drillhole record and analyze the history of this type of predator independently. Our analysis, based on drilled Chione from four Plio-Pleistocene formations in Florida, does not support the previous scenario of disruption at the end of the Pliocene followed by predator recovery.

Rather, selected prey size has steadily increased since the middle Pliocene, although the stereotypy of prey-size selection behaviors has decreased. In order to explain this trend, I performed a series of statistical analyses to explore factors most likely to have influenced muricid prey-size stereotypy. The timing of Species turnover within the prey lineage or change in prey phenotype does not correlate with the timing of changes in prey-size stereotypy and, therefore, cannot explain the observed changes in muricid behavior. Presence of secondary predators may also influence predator-prey interactions, because predators forage sub-optimally to ensure greater safety in the presence of enemies. Results indicate that secondary predation pressure decreased at the Caloosahatchee-Bermont boundary without any evident change in muricid prey-size stereotypy and hence refute the hypothesis that secondary predation induced sub-optimal foraging.

A third factor tested is prey density, which plays a major role in predator-prey interactions in other systems by thwarting a predator's ability to single out the preferred individual prey. Increased Chione prey density correlates with and provides support for increased confusion among the muricid predators and hence driving the increased sub-optimal behavior reflected by the increased variability in prey-size selection. This is the first time prey density effect has been considered and its importance here over all other factors suggests that it may be a critical factor in short- and long-term predator behavior trends in fossil record.

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