Learning in Nucella lapillus

Among the best known of our native carniverous Molluscs is the Common Dog Whelk, Nucella lapillus. It is interesting to speculate what governs a young specimen and how it learns to bore the shells of its victims - remembering that the hole bored must be in an advantageous position to allow the insertion of the radula to cause fatal damage to the bored animal.

Recently I observed a young specimen of Nucella lapillus - about 1 cm. in length - on the shell of a common Acorn Barnacle (Balanus balanoides). On removing the mollusc I noticed the commencement of a bore hole on one of the lateral plates, far down near the outer edge, where, if the line of bore were continued as started, no part of the body of the Barnacle would be met. Apparently the mollusc was not yet perfect in its hunting technique,

L. S. Atkins