Kleptopredators

Kleptopredators

In recent years, scientists have discovered a very special type of predator that is different than what is expected in the scientific realm. Known as kleptropredators, these species time their attacks on their prey to coincide with their prey eating.  This tactic allows the creature to eat food they normally would not be able to. This article will discuss kleptopredation and how it fits into the origins debate.

To understand how kleptopredation works, we need to understand its practitioner. The only known creature to use this strategy is a small nudibranch found in the Mediterranean Sea and the eastern Atlantic Ocean.  Known commonly as the pilgrim hervia, this sea slug feeds on hydroids. Hydroids are small, distant relatives of corals and anemones that are planktivores. The pilgrim hervia has a slender body, with a pointed tail and specialized rhinophores on its head. Its back is covered in colorful cerata, which look vaguely like colored anemone tentacles.  The pilgrim hervia, known to science as Cratena peregrina  grows a mere one and a half inches in length, but, since hydroids are less than an inch, they make great meals.  However, it does something quite clever before indulging itself in a meal.

The term “Kleptopredator” is not mine. Credit for that term goes to Dr. Trevor Lewis from the University of Portsmouth in England who is studying the pilgrim hervia.  As part of the study, Dr. Lewis and his research team noticed that the pilgrim hervia tended to select hydroid prey based on whether the hydroid had recently eaten. They then tested this hypothesis in a lab setting, providing pilgrim hervia’s with a choice of fed, or unfed hydroids. Their study noticed that the pilgrim hervias not only preferred the recently fed hydroids over the unfed ones, they also ate the fattened hydroids faster.  Essentially, the pilgrim hydroids are just like children. They eat pizza much faster than they eat broccoli.

There are significant benefits to the kleptopredatory strategy.  For example, the sea slug’s mouth is not designed to eat plankton. To do so would require a strainer style mouth, but the sea slug has a more engulfing style of mouth. However, by engulfing a hydroid that has just gorged itself on plankton, the pilgrim hervia has the ability to ingest plankton as well. Further, this double nutrient uptake at once, cuts down on the number of hydroids necessary for the nudibranch to survive. This ensures that the sea slug population will have plenty to eat in the future. In a sense, the pilgrim hervia is stealing a meal from its prey, while it is eating it, and preserving the hydroid population numbers simultaneously.  This is what led to the kleptopredator term.  The pilgrim hervia is both a thief and a predator simultaneously.

In light of this type of predation, we can draw some conclusions about the theories of origins. This is an incredibly clever strategy for gaining extra nutrients in each meal. How does evolution explain it? The answer appears to be silence. I dug through several pages of google search results about kleptopredation and did not see one evolutionist attempting to explain how it evolved. However, when they do come up with a theory, they will need to answer a couple of fundamental questions.  First, how can the sea slugs tell the difference between fed and unfed hydroids? What mechanism do they use? Once that is uncovered, the question of why it developed naturally follows.  This then leads to another question. How do the nudibranchs know that it is beneficial to them to eat the hydroids right after they eat, rather than before they eat or hours later? What instinct tells them to sit and wait while the hydroid feeds, then pounce? How can evolution explain that?

There is a lot more to nudibranchs which challenge evolutionary dogma, but for now, just bear in mind that evolution has no answer to kleptopredation. A designer, specifically the God of the Bible makes much more sense. Since hydroids are not living according to the Biblical definition and neither are plankton, the pilgrim hervia could have been designed to feed this way from the beginning and not have broken God’s description of things as being “very good”.  Evolution has no answer to the design of kleptopredation, but a special Creator makes things much more clear.

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