This Snail Goes Fishing With a Net Made of Slime | Deep Look

From Deep Look.

Most of the sea snails in this tide pool cruise around searching for food. But not the scaled wormsnail. It cements its shell to a rock and snags its meals using the one thing a snail has plenty of: mucus!

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While most sea snails spend their time grazing on algae or searching for prey, the scaled wormsnail spends its entire adult life stuck in the same spot.

It cements its shell directly to a solid structure like rock. That means when it comes to getting food, the scaled wormsnail needs to get creative. So it uses the one thing a snail has plenty of: mucus.

“They essentially use the same kind of mucus that a garden snail would glide on, and use that to make a web to catch their food,” says Rüdiger Bieler, a biologist at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago.

Scaled wormsnails tend to live near shore where the waves churn up a stew of tasty morsels for this miniature fisher to catch.

“They’re taking live plankton and bits of seaweed … along with whatever edible debris that’s floating in the water,” says Bieler. “They don’t seem to be very choosy.”

“It seems like a pretty lonely life. You can’t get out and visit your neighbor and see new things. You’re just sitting there and waiting for things to float by.”

— What do scaled wormsnails eat?
Wormsnails use their mucus strands like a fishing net to collect food from seawater. The wormsnail will exude its net, which snags plankton as well as tiny bits of seaweed and detritus churned up by the waves. Then the wormsnail drags in and eats the net, along with all the tasty bits trapped within it.

— Why are vermetid snails bad for aquariums?
Vermetid snails are a group of sea snails that belong to the family Vermetidae. Their name refers to the worm-like shape of their shells. Some species of vermetid snails can hitchhike their way into warm-water home aquariums, where they can damage coral by either attaching to it or by smothering and starving it with their mucus net.

— How do you get rid of vermetid snails in an aquarium?
There are multiple techniques to get rid of unwanted vermetid snails in home aquariums. The simplest way is to dispose of the rocks or other solid items on which the snail has attached. Or the rocks can be soaked in a chemical solution to kill the snail and dissolve the shell.

Some aquarists get rid of vermetid snails by physically prying their shell tower from the rock or coral.

—+ Read the entire article on KQED Science:

—+ For more information:

Rüdiger Bieler studies mollusks, including wormsnails, at the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago

Seymour Marine Discovery Center at the UC Santa Cruz Coastal Science Campus

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