Predation of Oysters Using an Autonomic Pharynx in the Oyster Leech

We examine the predatory behavior of the polyclad flatworm Cryptostylochus sp., or called oyster leech. During the attack period of flatworms protruding pharynges form fragments that we call "autonomic pharynges". Using time-lapse photography, we find that the autonomic pharynx moves around slowly and independently. Our results show that autonomic pharynges can decompose the clam mantle and further prevent the oysters and clams from closing their shells, eventually causing them to die. The autonomic pharynges play a critical role during the predation process of the stylochid flatworm.This external digestive function of autonomic pharynges might be a new pattern of predation behavior and first been found in polyclad flatworms.

Dorsal view of Cryptostylochus sp. t, tentacles.

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