Fossil records of the holes drilled in clam shells before and after a mass extinction two million years ago show patterns of predator-prey behavior indicating that although diversity recovered rapidly, the level of competition has not, according to an article in the journal Science.
The study emphasizes a new way of looking at the consequences of extinction and recovery, by closely observing how individual species interact with each other. "Our work shows that scientists have been looking at only half the story when they talk about the consequences of extinction," said Gregory P. Dietl, a post-doctoral fellow in geology and geophysics at Yale and co-author of the study. "Although measuring biodiversity – or the span of species that exist – is important, it does not necessarily tell us how ecosystems function."
Marine snails feed on clams by drilling a hole through the shell to reach the soft body inside. Using a rasping tongue and a cocktail of chemicals to drill through the wall of the shell takes several days, but under stress of competitive pressure, snails attack through the shell edge – a faster, but riskier access.
Janet Rettig Emanuel | EurekAlert!
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