Sea slugs target full prey, says research

MARINE scientists have discovered a new way in which marine animals catch their prey.

Scientists at the University of Portsmouth have found that sea slugs deliberately target prey that has recently eaten.

Scientists at the University of Portsmouth have found that sea slugs such as cratena peregrina deliberately target prey that has recently eaten

Nicknamed kleptopredation – after the second-hand way in which the slug steals its prey’s meal – city university researchers are the first to have observed the feat in the natural world.

Dr Trevor Willis, a senior lecturer and course leader at the University of Portsmouth, led the research into the behaviour of nudibranchs – a family of sea slugs – off the coast of Siciliy.

He said: ‘This is very exciting, we have some great results here that rewrite the text book on the way these creatures forage and interact with their environment.’

While carrying out their studies, the scientists found one slug, the cratena peregrina, preys on organisms that had recently eaten.

As a result, the research found, half of its diet consisted of zooplankton – the prey of the organism it was consuming.

It is not known how widespread this behaviour may be, but it is hoped the research could contribute to a better marine understanding. Dr Willis said: ‘Like any science worth its salt, this raises more questions than it answers.’

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