Assessing the potential use of microtraces of gastropod predation as a diagnostic for predator-prey interactions in the fossil record



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Predatory gastropods have left signs of boring predation in the fossil record as early as the Cambrian (McMenamin and Schulte McMenamin, 1990; putative Proterozoic examples [e.g., Bengtson and Zhao, 1992] remain controversial). Through studying drill holes in prey, we can better understand predator-prey interactions in marine communities. It has been proposed that further study of the interior of drill holes yields microtraces left by the radular teeth during the drilling process (Schiffbauer et al., 2008; Tyler and Schiffbauer, 2012). The pattern and orientation of the traces can be used to associate predator with prey and act as a diagnostic feature to identify the predator. Trace fossils can provide great insight into past environments, but only when they are well preserved. Through assessing one hundred and eighty drill holes using scanning electron microscopy, I provide here evidence suggesting the limited presence of predatory microtraces. Interpreting shell deterioration and extrapolating the observed degradation of modern specimens to hypothetical paleoenvironments suggests that preservation of such minute traces would be poor and would thus negate the purpose of creating such a diagnostic. Additionally, the current understanding of the drilling process suggests that the preservation of microtraces within the drill hole margins is an infrequent occurrence. This may be due to the fact that before utilizing their radular teeth, predatory gastropods deploy secretions from the accessory boring organ (ABO) to break down the shell surface, lessening the preservation potential of predatory microtraces (Carriker, 1969). This study has discovered porcellaneous rims surrounding the drill holes in the Miocene Saxolucina. Further study into these rims may provide additional insight into the drilling strategy of naticid gastropods.



paleontology, malacology, predation