Behavior of the rhabdocoel flatworm Mesostoma ehrenbergii in prey capture and feeding

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The prey-capture and feeding behavior of the rhabdocoel flatworm Mesostoma ehrenbergii (Focke, 1836) was analyzed using a variety of live and dead prey, including Daphnia, mosquito larvae, and tubifex annelids. Prey-capture behavior was broken down into its individual components. Mesostoma could accommodate to and change its behavior depending on the size and type of prey. Mechanical rather than chemical cues were effective in inducing prey-capture behavior. No evidence for a special chemical paralysis as suggested by other workers was found. The apparent paralysis observed in cladocera such as Daphnia and mosquito larvae was, in part a behavioral response of the prey in ‘playing possum' and also in part due to immobilization of the prey by the flatworm with mucous threads.

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