In vertebrates, the left-and-right pairs of homologous organs are generally present in equal numbers. A remarkable exception is snail-eating snakes in the family Pareidae: almost all the pareid snakes have much more teeth on the right mandible than on the left for functional specialization in feeding on the dextral majority of land snails. Because the only exceptional species with symmetric dentition has been regarded as a slug-eater, the extent of dietary specialization on slugs could shape the degree of the lateral asymmetry of mandibular dentition (dentition asymmetry) even among snail eaters.
Angiostrongylus cantonensis and Angiostrongylus mackerrasae are metastrongyloid nematodes that infect various rat species. Terrestrial and aquatic molluscs are intermediate hosts of these worms while humans and dogs are accidental hosts. Angiostrongylus cantonensis is the major cause of angiostrongyliasis, a disease characterised by eosinophilic meningitis. Although both A. cantonensis and A. mackerrasae are found in Australia, A. cantonensis appears to account for most infections in humans and animals. Due to the occurrence of several severe clinical cases in Sydney and Brisbane, the need for epidemiological studies on angiostrongyliasis in this region has become apparent. In the present study, a conventional PCR and a TaqMan assay were compared for their ability to amplify Angiostrongylus DNA from DNA extracted from molluscs. The TaqMan assay was more sensitive, capable of detecting the DNA equivalent to one hundredth of a nematode larva. Therefore, the TaqMan assay was used to screen molluscs (n=500) of 14 species collected from the Sydney region. Angiostrongylus DNA was detected in 2 of the 14 mollusc species; Cornu aspersum [14/312 (4.5%)], and Bradybaenia similaris [1/10 (10%)], which are non-native terrestrial snails commonly found in urban habitats. The prevalence of Angiostrongylus spp. was 3.0% ± 0.8% (CI 95%). Additionally, experimentally infected Austropeplea lessoni snails shed A. cantonensis larvae in their mucus, implicating mucus as a source of infection. This is the first Australian study to survey molluscs using real-time PCR and confirms that the garden snail, C. aspersum, is a common intermediate host for Angiostrongylus spp. in Sydney.
Animal colours and patterns commonly play a role in reducing detection by predators, social signalling or increasing survival in response to some other environmental pressure. Different colour morphs can evolve within populations exposed to different levels of predation or environmental stress and in some cases can arise within the lifetime of an individual as the result of phenotypic plasticity. Skin pigmentation is variable for many terrestrial slugs (Mollusca: Gastropoda), both between and within species. The Kerry spotted slug Geomalacus maculosus Allman, an EU protected species, exhibits two distinct phenotypes: brown individuals occur in forested habitats whereas black animals live in open habitats such as blanket bog. Both colour forms are spotted and each type strongly resembles the substrate of their habitat, suggesting that G. maculosus possesses camouflage.
Parasitized individuals are often expected to be poor competitors because they are weakened by infections. Many trematode species, however, although extensively exploiting their mollusc hosts, also induce gigantism (increased host size) by diverting host resources towards growth instead of reproduction. In such systems, alternatively to reduced competitive ability due to negative effects of parasitism on host performance, larger size could allow more efficient resource acquisition and thus increase the relative competitive ability of host individuals. We addressed this hypothesis by testing the effect of a trematode parasite Diplostomum pseudospathaceum on the competitive ability of its snail host Lymnaea stagnalis. We experimentally examined the growth of snails kept in pairs in relation to their infection status and intensity of resource competition (i.e. food availability). We found that parasitized snails grew faster and their reproduction was reduced compared to unparasitized individuals indicating parasite-induced gigantism. However, growth of the snails was faster when competing with parasitized individuals compared to unparasitized snails indicating reduced competitive ability due to parasitism. The latter effect, however, was relatively weak suggesting that the effects of the parasite on snail physiology may partly override each other in determining competitive ability.
Euthyneuran gastropods represent one of the most diverse lineages in Mollusca (with over 30,000 species), play significant ecological roles in aquatic and terrestrial environments and affect many aspects of human life. However, our understanding of their evolutionary relationships remains incomplete due to missing data for key phylogenetic lineages. The present study integrates such a neglected, ancient snail family Ringiculidae into a molecular systematics of Euthyneura for the first time, and is supplemented by the first microanatomical data. Surprisingly, both molecular and morphological features present compelling evidence for the common ancestry of ringiculid snails with the highly dissimilar Nudipleura-the most species-rich and well-known taxon of sea slugs (nudibranchs and pleurobranchoids). A new taxon name Ringipleura is proposed here for these long-lost sisters, as one of three major euthyneuran clades with late Palaeozoic origins, along with Acteonacea (Acteonoidea + Rissoelloidea) and Tectipleura (Euopisthobranchia + Panpulmonata). The early Euthyneura are suggested to be at least temporary burrowers with a characteristic ‘bubble’ shell, hypertrophied foot and headshield as exemplified by many extant subtaxa with an infaunal mode of life, while the expansion of the mantle might have triggered the explosive Mesozoic radiation of the clade into diverse ecological niches.
Metastrongyloid parasites represent sparsely studied parasites of dogs and cats in Germany. Recent European surveys indicate that these parasites are spreading in Europe. Actual data on prevalence of Angiostrongylus vasorum in dogs and foxes reveal several endemic foci in Germany. However, actual data on the prevalence of A. vasorum and other metastrongyloid lungworm larvae in a wide range of slug and snail intermediate hosts, such as Arion lusitanicus, are missing for Germany. To fill this gap, we conducted an epidemiological survey on native German slugs in selected regions of Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate. The focus was on slugs, because in study areas slugs appear to be more abundant than snails. Slugs were collected throughout different seasons of the year in areas that were previously proven to be hyperendemic for A. vasorum fox infections. Overall, a total of 2701 slugs were collected and examined for lungworm larvae via artificial digestion. The number of A. vasorum larvae per slug varied considerably (1-546 larvae per specimen). Some hotspot areas with high A. vasorum prevalence in slugs (up to 19.4%) were identified. The overall A. vasorum prevalence varied with season with largest number of slugs infected in summer (9.1%) and lowest number in winter (0.8%). The current study revealed a total A. vasorum prevalence of 4.7% in slugs based on microscopic analyses. Confirmation of lungworm species was made by specific duplex-real-time PCRs. Hence, these data demonstrate that final hosts are at a permanent risk for A. vasorum infections during all seasons when living in investigated areas. Besides A. vasorum, other lungworm larvae were also detected, such as Crenosoma vulpis (the fox lungworm, 2.3%) and Aelurostrongylus abstrusus (feline lungworm, 0.2%).
Snail and slug mucus is a viscous-elastic substance secreted by specific glands with adhesive and lubricants properties that allows them to adhere tenaciously to many different surfaces. It has been used since ancient times for care and human health and it is still very important in traditional and folkloristic medicine. Recently, mucus from snail and slugs and its protein and components have been subjected to some investigations on their antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal activity due to extensive traditional uses and for a future application in medicine. Antimicrobial activities of crude mucus, and its components, against different microorganism have been reported, showing antimicrobial activities that lead their potential employment in several fields as natural additives. The purpose of this Review is to summarize the results of antimicrobial studies of snail and slug mucus and its compounds from the first scientific applications to the isolation of the single components in order to better understand its application and propose an employment in future studies as a natural antimicrobial agent.
Many plants and animals store toxic or unpalatable compounds in tissues that are easily encountered by predators during attack. Defensive compounds can be produced de novo, or obtained from dietary sources and stored directly without selection or modification, or can be selectively sequestered or biotransformed. Storage strategies should be optimized to produce effective defence mechanisms but also prevent autotoxicity of the host. Nudibranch molluscs utilize a diverse range of chemical defences, and we investigated the accumulation and distribution of defensive secondary metabolites in body tissues of 19 species of Chromodorididae nudibranchs. We report different patterns of distribution across tissues, where: 1) the mantle had more or different (but structurally related) compounds than the viscera; 2) all compounds in the mantle were also in the viscera; and 3) the mantle had fewer compounds than the viscera. We found no further examples of species that selectively store a single compound, previously reported in Chromodoris species. Consistent with other studies, we found high concentrations of metabolites in mantle rim tissues compared to the viscera. Using bioassays, compounds in the mantle were more toxic than compounds found in the viscera for Glossodoris vespa Rudman, 1990 and Ceratosoma brevicaudatum Abraham, 1876. In G. vespa, compounds in the mantle were also more unpalatable to palaemonid shrimp than compounds found in the viscera. This indicates that these species may modify compounds to increase bioactivity for defensive purposes and/or selectively store more toxic compounds. We highlight clear differences in the storage of sequestered chemical defences, which may have important implications for species to employ effective defences against a range of predators.
Invasive snails and slugs are among the most damaging pests of vegetables, fruits, ornamentals, grains, and forage throughout the world. Current control strategies are focused almost exclusively on molluscicides, which are ineffective under some conditions, and which can have serious nontarget effects. A major aim of this study was to develop a generic high-throughput bioassay method for use in identifying attractants for terrestrial gastropods, with the overall goal of developing attractant-based control methods for pest gastropods. Here, we demonstrate the use of the bioassay method in screening a wide variety of foodstuffs and other possible sources of attractants, using the pest snail Cornu aspersum Müller (Pulmonata, Helicidae) and the pest slug Deroceras reticulatum Müller (Pulmonata, Agriolimacidae) as test animals. Among a large number of food items and previously reported attractants tested, chopped fresh cucumber (Cucumis sativus) was the most attractive substrate for both species. Our results also showed that previous feeding experience influences subsequent food choice to some extent, but regardless of previous feeding experience, chopped cucumber was as attractive or more attractive than any other substrate tested.
Click-iT method can be used to trace the neurons where the newly synthesized RNA transcripts occur. Our experiments performed with the CNS of terrestrial mollusk Helix demonstrate that 5-ethynyluridine (EU) is selectively incorporated in RNA but not in DNA. The time of EU accumulation necessary for its detection was about several hours. EU was injected into the body cavity of adult mollusks, and was detectable in neurons for several days. In juveniles, EU was introduced via bathing of snails in the EU-containing saline, and was reliably detected within time period of several weeks. Our data suggest that short-living forms of RNA cannot be detected by Click-iT method, while the long-living forms of RNA can be spatially detected in individual neurons.