Change We Can Believe in: Venom Variation duringPrey Capture and Development in Cone Snails
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In Conus species, we would like to investigate whether venom composition variation occurs during development and prey-capture . Previous studies show a change in radular tooth shape revealing that through development, morphological changes occur that mirror changes in prey preference from worm-hunter to fish-hunter. It would also make sense then that there must be a point where venom composition also undergoes a change to specifically target the new prey. Studies such as these have never been done on any species of cone snail. Efforts were made to develop a systematic protocol to raise C. catus larvae through metamorphosis as has been done for other species. If Conus catus larvae reach metamorphosis further studies could investigate whether venom composition switches from a worm-hunting ancestral-like set to the adult fish-hunting set , as well as help to understand radular tooth morphology transformations. Observations of the mollusk-hunter Conus textile during feeding reveal that prey are often injected multiple times in succession. Species that inject prey multiple times during a single feeding event may have compositional changes in injected venom. This would not be a concern in a species like Conus catus where there is only one observed injection during prey-capture. Whether venom composition changes occur after each shot and how changes are related to the biomechanics of prey-capture are areas of great interest. Conus textile venom was milked through a novel milking approach that enabled collection of multiple shots in succession. Injected venom samples will be analyzed through MALDI-TOF Mass Spectrometry.