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Dispersers are more likely to follow mucus trails in the land snail Cornu aspersum

By Alexandre Vong, Armelle Ansart, Maxime Dahirel

Posted 20 Jul 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/373001 (published DOI: 10.1007/s00114-019-1642-9)

Dispersal, i.e. movement leading to gene flow, is a fundamental although costly life history trait. The use of indirect social information may help mitigate these costs, yet in many cases little is known about the proximate sources of such information, and how dispersers and residents may differ in their information use. Land gastropods, which have a high cost of movement and obligatorily leave information potentially exploitable by conspecifics during movement (through mucus trails), are a good model to investigate links between dispersal costs and information use. We used Y-mazes to see whether dispersers and residents differed in their trail-following propensity, in the snail Cornu aspersum. Dispersers followed mucus trails more frequently than expected by chance, contrary to non-dispersers. Ignoring dispersal status during tests would lead to falsely conclude to no trail-following for the majority of ecologically realistic scenarios. Trail following by dispersers may reduce dispersal costs by reducing energy expenditure and helping snails find existing patches. Finally, we point that ignoring the potential for collective dispersal provided by trail-following abilities may lead to wrong inferences on the demographic and genetic consequences of dispersal.

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