Prey-tracking behavior in the invasive terrestrial planarian Platydemus manokwari (Platyhelminthes, Tricladida).
Platydemus manokwari is a broadly distributed invasive terrestrial flatworm that preys heavily on land snails and has been credited with the demise of numerous threatened island faunas. We examined whether P. manokwari tracks the mucus trails of land snail prey, investigated its ability to determine trail direction, and evaluated prey preference among various land snail species. A plastic treatment plate with the mucus trail of a single species and a control plate without the trail were placed side by side at the exit of cages housing P. manokwari. All trials were then videotaped overnight. The flatworms moved along plates with mucus trails, but did not respond to plates without trails, blank control (distilled water), or with conspecific flatworm trails. When presented at the midpoint of a snail mucus trail, the flatworms followed the trail in a random direction. The flatworms showed a preference when choosing between two plates, each with a mucus trail of different land snail species. Our results suggest that P. manokwari follows snail mucus trails based on chemical cues to increase the chance of encountering prey; however, trail-tracking behavior showed no directionality.