"If we and the rest of the backboned animals were to disappear overnight, the rest of the world would get on pretty well. But if the invertebrates were to disappear, the land's ecosystems would collapse."
David Attenborough

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Molluscivores Part 1: Death from the Skies- Snail Kites!

You already know that molluscs are remarkable, awesome, beguiling and generally terrific, but are you aware of just how nifty some predators of molluscs can be? Mollusc POW is about all things molluscan, and predation can't be ignored as a key factor in shaping the evolution of these beasts. So, over the coming months I'll be featuring cool-things-that-eat-molluscs.

First up is the funky, and slightly bonkers Snail Kite Rostrhamus sociabilis, a nimble new-world bird of prey which specialises in a gastropod diet. Living in swamps across Central and South America they prey mainly on the large amphibious snails Ampullariidae. (That is not a typo- this family of snails possess two sets of breathing structures, one for under the water, one for above, so they really are amphibious rather than plain-old aquatic). In Florida the last remnants of the US population of Snail Kites reportedly live almost exclusively on one species: Pomacea paludosa (pictured below thanks to the Pomacea Project).

Snail kites have several morphological adaptions to aid their molluscivorous lifestyle including needle-like talons and that wacky long decurved bill.
I had intended a photo of  snail kite in action ruining a poor little Pomacea's day but sadly all the good ones I could find online are restricted use. If anyone out there knows of a Snail Kite-and-prey photo I can link to then please get in touch.

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