Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Limpet


BACKGROUND: Various shapes of gastropod shells have evolved ever since the Cambrian. Although theoretical analyses of morphogenesis exist, the molecular basis of shell development remains unclear. We compared expression patterns of the decapentaplegic (dpp) gene in the shell gland and mantle tissues at various developmental stages between coiled-shell and non-coiled-shell gastropods. RESULTS: We analyzed the expression patterns of dpp for the two limpets Patella vulgata and Nipponacmea fuscoviridis, and for the dextral wild-type and sinistral mutant lineage of the pond snail Lymnaea stagnalis. The limpets had symmetric expression patterns of dpp throughout ontogeny, whereas in the pond snail, the results indicated asymmetric and mirror image patterns between the dextral and sinistral lineages. CONCLUSION: We hypothesize that Dpp induces mantle expansion, and the presence of a left/right asymmetric gradient of the Dpp protein causes the formation of a coiled shell. Our results provide a molecular explanation for shell, coiling including new insights into expression patterns in post-embryonic development, which should aid in understanding how various shell shapes are formed and have evolved in the gastropods.

Concepts: Gene, Developmental biology, Mollusca, Gastropod shell, Snail, Gastropoda, Lymnaea stagnalis, Limpet


Experiments have shown that interspecific interactions within consumer guilds can alter patterns of distribution, abundance and size of species. Plastic behavioural responses can be modulated by agonistic interactions. In many cases, consumers compete for space and shelters, and these interactions change the manner in which they exploit food. This study investigates the consequences of competition in the spatial and temporal organization of behaviour of intertidal grazers, which share algal resources and the use of rock crevices while resting, but exhibit different body sizes, spatial behaviour and foraging modes. We evaluate interaction strength between small gregarious Siphonaria lessoni and the larger territorial keyhole limpet Fissurella crassa and between S. lessoni and the medium-size gregarious chiton Chiton granosus. Using field manipulations and artificial arenas in the laboratory, we tested whether the use of crevices, micro-spatial distribution and activity are modified by the density of conspecifics and the presence of heterospecifics. Our results show that small-scale spatial segregation observed in the field between S. lessoni and C. granosus result from species-specific differences in habitat use. In turn, we found evidence that spatial segregation between F. crassa and S. lessoni results from highly asymmetric interference competition in the use of shelters. The presence of F. crassa reduced the use of crevices and growth rates of S. lessoni. Effects on growth rates are assumed to result from exposure to harsh environmental conditions rather than food limitation. Thus, neither gregarious behaviour nor differences in activity were sufficient to prevent competition with the larger grazer. Our study illustrates the importance of competition for shelters, which results in behavioural changes of the smaller-sized species, and how these plastic responses can translate into differences in growth rates. Use of shelters can thus be modulated by environmental conditions in a species-specific as well as an interactive manner within consumers' guilds.

Concepts: Competition, Interspecific competition, Intertidal zone, Biological interactions, Biological interaction, Limpet, Fissurellidae


Understanding the effects of environmental change on the distribution and abundance of strongly interacting organisms, such as intertidal macroalgae and their grazers, needs a thorough knowledge of their underpinning ecological relationships. Control of grazer-plant interactions is bi-directional on northwestern European coasts: grazing by limpets structures populations of macroalgae, while macroalgae provide habitat and food for limpets. Scottish shores dominated by the macroalga Fucus vesiculosus support lower densities and larger sizes of limpets Patella vulgata than shores with less Fucus. These patterns may be due to differences in inter-size-class competitive interactions of limpets among shores with different covers of Fucus. To examine this model, densities of small and large limpets were manipulated in plots with and without Fucus. Amounts of biofilm were measured in each plot. The presence of Fucus increased survival but hindered growth of small (15 mm TL) limpets, which were negatively affected by the presence of large limpets (31 mm TL). In contrast, large limpets were not affected by the presence of Fucus or of small limpets. This suggests the occurrence of asymmetric inter-size-class competition, which was influenced by the presence of macroalgae. Macroalgae and increased densities of limpets did not influence amounts of biofilm. Our findings highlight the role of interactions among organisms in generating ecological responses to environmental change.

Concepts: Algae, Biology, Fucus vesiculosus, Fucus, Seaweed, Intertidal zone, Limpet, Patella vulgata


Climate change can influence ecosystems via both direct effects on individual organisms and indirect effects mediated by species interactions. However, we understand little about how these changes will ripple through ecosystems or whether there are particular ecological characteristics that might make ecosystems more susceptible-or more resistant-to warming. By combining in situ experimental warming with herbivore manipulations in a natural rocky intertidal community for over 16 months, we show that herbivory regulates the capacity of marine communities to resist warming. We found that limpet herbivores helped to preserve trophic and competitive interactions under experimental warming, dampening the impact of warming on overall community composition. The presence of limpets facilitated the survival of the main habitat modifier (barnacles) under warmer conditions, which, in turn, facilitated the presence of a consumer guild. When limpets were removed, environmental warming altered trophic, competitive, and facilitative interactions, with cascading impacts on community succession and stability. We conclude that conserving trophic structure and the integrity of interaction networks is vitally important as Earth continues to warm.

Concepts: Plant, Ecology, Animal, Herbivore, Intertidal zone, Ecological succession, Herbivory, Limpet


The Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas belongs to one of the most species-rich but genomically poorly explored phyla, the Mollusca. Here we report the sequencing and assembly of the oyster genome using short reads and a fosmid-pooling strategy, along with transcriptomes of development and stress response and the proteome of the shell. The oyster genome is highly polymorphic and rich in repetitive sequences, with some transposable elements still actively shaping variation. Transcriptome studies reveal an extensive set of genes responding to environmental stress. The expansion of genes coding for heat shock protein 70 and inhibitors of apoptosis is probably central to the oyster’s adaptation to sessile life in the highly stressful intertidal zone. Our analyses also show that shell formation in molluscs is more complex than currently understood and involves extensive participation of cells and their exosomes. The oyster genome sequence fills a void in our understanding of the Lophotrochozoa.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, RNA, Plasmid, Pacific oyster, Oyster, Limpet


The gills, or ctenidia, of marine gastropods serve as the sites for respiratory gas exchange. Cilia on the surface provide the pump that moves water through the mantle cavity and enhance diffusion. Because the gills are housed inside the shell, it is difficult to view them while they are functioning. Published images of gills show contracted, fragile structures that are distorted by the processes of dissection and preservation. Members of the families Fissurellidae (keyhole limpets) and Haliotidae (abalone) have openings in their shells through which water enters and/or exits. I inserted an endoscope connected to a video camera into the openings of the shells of living, non-anaesthetized individuals of the fissurellid Diodora aspera and the haliotid Haliotis rufescens. In both species, the dorsal afferent branchial vessel of the afferent gill axis appeared large and inflated, as did the leaflets that extended from either side of the axis. In D. aspera, the leaflets appeared to fill the mantle cavity and responded to touch, particles, and dye in the water by contracting quickly and slowly re-extending. In contrast, the gills of H. rufescens did not noticeably respond to disturbance. On the other hand, these gills showed a regular pattern of pleats that had not been described in the extensive anatomical literature of these common and economically significant animals. These results provide a novel view of the gastropod mantle cavity as a dynamic space filled by the gills, which divide the mantle cavity into distinct incurrent and excurrent chambers and produce a laminar flow of water through the cavity. J. Morphol., 2015. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Concepts: Mollusca, Gastropod shell, Abalone, Gastropoda, Intertidal zone, Limpet, Fissurellidae, Red abalone


The ‘scaly-foot gastropod’ (Chrysomallon squamiferum Chen et al., 2015) from deep-sea hydrothermal vent ecosystems of the Indian Ocean is an active mobile gastropod occurring in locally high densities, and it is distinctive for the dermal scales covering the exterior surface of its foot. These iron-sulfide coated sclerites, and its nutritional dependence on endosymbiotic bacteria, are both noted as adaptations to the extreme environment in the flow of hydrogen sulfide. We present evidence for other adaptations of the ‘scaly-foot gastropod’ to life in an extreme environment, investigated through dissection and 3D tomographic reconstruction of the internal anatomy.

Concepts: Heart, Organ, Annelid, Ocean, Hydrothermal vent, Mollusca, Gastropoda, Limpet


Extreme environments prompt the evolution of characteristic adaptations. Yet questions remain about whether radiations in extreme environments originate from a single lineage that masters a key adaptive pathway, or if the same features can arise in parallel through convergence. Species endemic to deep-sea hydrothermal vents must accommodate high temperature and low pH. The most successful vent species share a constrained pathway to successful energy exploitation: hosting symbionts. The vent-endemic gastropod genus Gigantopelta, from the Southern and Indian Oceans, shares unusual features with a co-occurring peltospirid, the ‘scaly-foot gastropod’ Chrysomallon squamiferum. Both are unusually large for the clade and share other adaptive features such as a prominent enlarged trophosome-like oesophageal gland, not found in any other vent molluscs.

Concepts: Evolution, Biology, Indian Ocean, Binomial nomenclature, Hydrothermal vent, Mollusca, Gastropoda, Limpet


The neurotoxin β-N-methylamino-l-alanine (BMAA) has been identified as an environmental factor triggering neurodegenerative diseases such as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD). We investigated the possible vectors of BMAA and its isomers 2,4-diaminobutyric acid (DAB) and N-2(aminoethyl)glycine (AEG) in marine mollusks collected from the Chinese coast. Sixty-eight samples of marine mollusks were collected along the Chinese coast in 2016, and were analyzed by an HILIC-MS/MS (hydrophilic interaction liquid chromatography with tandem quadrupole mass spectrometer) method without derivatization. BMAA was detected in a total of five samples from three species: Neverita didyma, Solen strictus, and Mytilus coruscus. The top three concentrations of free-form BMAA (0.99~3.97 μg·g(-1) wet weight) were detected in N. didyma. DAB was universally detected in most of the mollusk samples (53/68) with no species-specific or regional differences (0.051~2.65 μg·g(-1) wet weight). No AEG was detected in any mollusk samples tested here. The results indicate that the gastropod N. didyma might be an important vector of the neurotoxin BMAA in the Chinese marine ecosystem. The neurotoxin DAB was universally present in marine bivalve and gastropod mollusks. Since N. didyma is consumed by humans, we suggest that the origin and risk of BMAA and DAB toxins in the marine ecosystem should be further investigated in the future.

Concepts: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Neurodegenerative disorders, Mollusca, Quadrupole mass analyzer, Bivalvia, Marine biology, Gastropoda, Limpet


Experiments and observations were carried out to investigate the response to impact of the shells of the limpet Patella vulgata. Dropped-weight impact tests were conducted, creating damage which usually took the form of a hole in the shell’s apex. Similar damage was found to occur naturally, presumably as a result of stones propelled by the sea during storms. Apex holes were usually fatal, but small holes were sometimes repaired, and the repaired shell was as strong as the original, undamaged shell.The impact strength (energy to failure) of shells tested in situ was found to be 3.4 times higher than that of empty shells found on the beach. Surprisingly, strength was not affected by removing the shell from its home location, or by removing the limpet from the shell and allowing the shell to dry out. Sand abrasion, which removes material from the apex, was found to have a strong effect.Shells were also subjected to repeated impacts, causing failure after 2-120 repetitions. In situ shells performed poorly in this test. It is proposed that the apex acts as a kind of sacrificial feature, which confers increased resistance but only for a small number of impacts. Microscopy showed that damage initiates internally as delamination cracks on low-energy interfaces, leading to loss of material by spalling. This mode of failure is a consequence of the layered structure of the shell which makes it vulnerable to the tensile and shear stresses in the impact shock wave.

Concepts: Causality, Shear stress, In situ, Shell, Shock wave, Shell, Wyoming, Limpet, Patella vulgata