Ancient attack marks show ocean predators got scarier | Science News

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Ancient attack marks show ocean predators got scarier

Holes in shells reveal predators that kill by drilling just kept getting bigger

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4:12pm, June 15, 2017
moon snail

KILLER DRILLERS  Predators such as moon snails (Naticarius orientalis shown) that kill by drilling through other animals’ shells offer a rare chance to test an idea about the power of enemies.

In pumped-up sequels for scary beach movies, each predator is bigger than the last. Turns out that predators in real-world oceans may have upsized over time, too.

Attack holes in nearly 7,000 fossil shells suggest that drilling predators have outpaced their prey in evolving ever larger bodies and weapons, says paleontologist Adiël Klompmaker of the University of California, Berkeley. The ability to drill through a seashell lets predatory snails, octopuses, one-celled amoeba-like forams and other hungry beasts reach the soft meat despite prey armor. Millions of years later, CSI Paleontology can use these drill holes to test big evolutionary ideas about the power of predators.

“Predators got bigger — three words!” is Klompmaker’s bullet point for the work. Over the last 450 million years or so, drill holes have grown in average size from 0.35 millimeters to 3.25 millimeters,

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