Meeting Abstract

29-8  Saturday, Jan. 4 15:00 - 15:15  The Cone Snail Strikes Back: A Biomechanical Study of an Ultrafast Prey Capture JAN, I*; SANGHA, G; SCHULZ, JR; Occidental College; Occidental College; Occidental College

While predatory cone snails have been extensively studied for their venom properties, their ultrafast prey capture mechanism remains relatively recondite. The fish-hunting Conus catus of the family Conidae hydraulically propels a hollow radular harpoon that tethers and injects venom into prey. In this biomechanical study, we studied the priming step, prey strike, and venom delivery of the prey capture. Energy is stored as the radular harpoon is forced against a unique cellular latch within the proboscis, a distensible appendage, until adequate pressure exceeds the latch mechanism. Subsequently, the radular harpoon reaches high accelerations—achieving velocities that mark this prey strike as the fastest in mollusks and one of the fastest in animals—before even more rapidly decelerating as the bulbous base travels to the end of the proboscis. We observed fast venom delivery following such high-speed prey strike, as the velocities of ejected venom dramatically dissipate prior to or during proboscis withdrawal. To determine if similar mechanisms exist in other members of the Conoidea superfamily, we studied Hastula hectica of the closely related Terebridae family to identify analogous structures critical to the ultrafast prey capture of C. catus. Consequently, this system may be found in a large subset of diverse marine gastropods beyond just cone snails.