Cone snails wander in circles, lose focus with boosted CO2 | Science News

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Cone snails wander in circles, lose focus with boosted CO2

Cone snails (right) love to eat jumping snails (left). Research suggests that the behavior of both predator and prey may be affected by ocean acidification.

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Cone snails are normally stealthy hunters, but they become clumsy and unfocused in water with increased levels of carbon dioxide.

Oceans absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. As atmospheric CO2 levels rise, those in the oceans do too, changing the chemistry of the seawater.

Cone snails (Conus marmoreus) that spent several weeks in water dosed to simulate CO2 levels expected at the turn of the century had trouble catching their favorite snack, jumping snails. Only 10 percent caught and ate their prey, compared with 60 percent of snails living in water with current CO2 levels, researchers report February 1 in Biology Letters.

While the higher-CO2 snails were more active in general, they moved in “wiggly lines, and some even went in a circle,” says study coauthor and marine biologist Sue-Ann Watson of James Cook University in Townsville, Australia.

In a previous study, Watson showed that jumping snails were less able to escape attacking cone snails when exposed to higher levels of CO2. Together, the studies are the first to show the effects of ocean acidification on the behavior of both invertebrate predators and their prey, Watson says.

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