Octopuses pierced into shells at least 75 million years ago

Octopuses pierced into shells at least 75 million years ago

Tiny holes in three fossil clams reveal that 75 million years ago, ancient octopuses slyly drilling their prey. The discovery pushes back evidence for this 25 million-year-old behavior, scientists report Feb. 22 in the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society.

The clams, Nymphalucina occidentalis, once lived in what is now South Dakota, where an inland sea divided western and eastern North America. While examining the shells, now at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, paleontologists Adiël Klompmaker of the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa and Neil Landman of the AMNH spotted telltale oval-shaped holes. Each hole was between 0.5 and 1 millimeter in diameter, thinner than a spaghetti strand.

A modern octopus uses a ribbon of sharp teeth called a radula on its tongue to punch a hole in thick-shelled prey – useful when the shell is too hard for the octopus to snap off with its suckers. The octopus then injects venom into the hole, paralyzing the prey and dissolving it a bit, making it easier to consume. Octopus-drilled holes have already been found in shells dating back 50 million years, but the new find suggests …

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