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Review of Related Literature

Mollusks have been important to humans for thousands of years. They have been, and

still are, used as food, tools, decorations, currency, musical instruments and more. Molluscs are

a clade of organisms that all have soft bodies which typically have a "head" and a "foot" region.

Often their bodies are covered by a hard exoskeleton, as in the shells of snails and clams or the

plates of chitons. A part of almost every ecosystem in the world, molluscs are extremely

important members of many ecological communities. Molluscs occur in almost every habitat

found on Earth, where they are often the most conspicuous organisms. While most are found in

the marine environment, marine molluscs occur on a large variety of substrates including rocky

shores, coral reefs, mud flats, and sandy beaches. Gastropods and chitons are characteristic of

these hard substrates, and bivalves are commonly associated with softer substrates where they

burrow into the sediment. Extending from the intertidal to the deepest oceans, several major

gastropod clades live predominantly in freshwater or terrestrial habitats. Remarkably, one study

found around 3000 species within a single locality at a coral reef in New Caledonia. They range

in distribution from terrestrial mountain tops to the hot vents and cold seeps of the deep sea,

and range in size from 20-meter-long giant squid to microscopic aplacophorans, a millimeter or

less in length, that live between sand grains. Bivalves living in coastal areas, such as clams,

oysters, and scallops, are the most commonly eaten mollusks (Bunje, 2003). People also eat

octopuses and squid (calamari), whelks, and land snails (escargot). Mollusks have been - and

are still - important food sources for many people. Mollusks are important indicators of the

health of ecosystems. They can also cause problems. One recent example is the invasive Asian

zebra mussel, which has infested waters of the Great Lakes, with often disastrous results for the

economy and the native environment. Anyone collecting even empty shells should remember

that when an animal dies naturally, its shell is available to provide a home for another animal,
such as a hermit crab. And over time, as the shell degenerates, the nutrients in it are returned to

the environment. Mollusks produce a wide range of biotoxins and metabolites that are used in

medical research; for example, the lethal toxins produced by cone snails are used to develop a

drug called ziconotide for patients with cancer and AIDS who are suffering from pain that cannot

be relieved by opiates. Mollusks provide a sensitive tool for monitoring environmental health.

They are found in almost all habitats, but individual species often have small-scale distributions.

They are sensitive to changes in their environments, and therefore could provide an early

warning of habitat deterioration. Mollusks may be useful as indicators of conservation needs.

For example, in a study conducted in Australia, insects and mollusks were found to be strong

predictors of conservation priorities for vertebrates, but not vice versa. Many species of

mollusks are commercially exploited for human consumption (for example mussels, clams,

oysters, squids). Compared to the meat of other animals, the food prepared from mollusks has

high nutritious value, as it contains high protein content and many amino acids, and they are

relatively in low fat content (Barr, 2017).

Mollusk species have their own habitat preferences. Some are restricted to certain types

of woodland and forests; others live in grasslands, wetlands, certain types of rivers and lakes,

lower tidal water levels, intertidal and shallow estuarine water, coral habitats, abyssal plains of

the ocean floor or open ocean waters. Direct destruction of some of these habitats—because of

agricultural and urban development and habitat transformation resulting from dam construction

and water pollution—are important causes of mollusk population declines. Most freshwater

mollusks species are highly sensitive to water quality partly because of their permeable skins

and because they need a good oxygen supply. There are reported cases of species

disappearing in association with the acidification of water. Like other systems, reproduction is

highly variable among molluscs. Molluscs can be dioeciously or simultaneously or sequentially

hermaphroditic. Gametes are freely spawned in some groups, others have internal fertilization
and complex mating behaviours, many produce egg capsules, egg cases, or brood chambers

(Parent, 2008).

Most molluscs undergo spiral cleavage. Development can be direct (proceed right to

settling into a juvenile form) or indirect, going through the swimming trochophore larval stage.

The trochophore is very similar to the annelid trochophore. Before settling, many groups then go

onto a second larval stage which is unique to molluscs: the feeding (usually) and swimming

veliger larvae. Molluscs go through the uniquely molluscan process of torsion, usually during the

veliger stage of development. Torsion involves counterclockwise rotation of the visceral mass

up to 180 degrees with respect to the head and foot, to profoundly change the relative location

of the body regions. Many groups then “detort” to some degree later in development or

adulthood. Theories as to the evolutionary significance of torsion abound but this phenomenon

is not well understood. In the long run, torsion has allowed for much morphological

diversification over the course of evolution (Campbell,2012).

The mollusks usually live in waters that are 10-35ºC with a wide-ranging salinity of about

18-33 ppt.
URL

https://guides.library.harvard.edu/fas/mollusks

https://guides.library.harvard.edu/c.php?g=310450&p=2072051

http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/taxa/inverts/mollusca/mollusca.php
Molluscs occur in almost every habitat found on Earth, where they are often the most

conspicuous organisms. While most are found in the marine environment, extending from the

intertidal to the deepest oceans, several major gastropod clades live predominantly in

freshwater or terrestrial habitats. Remarkably, one study found around 3000 species within a

single locality at a coral reef in New Caledonia. In terrestrial communities, gastropods can

achieve reasonably high diversity and abundance: as many as 60-70 species may coexist in a

single habitat and abundance in leaf litter can exceed more than 500 individuals in four liters of

litter.

Marine molluscs occur on a large variety of substrates including rocky shores, coral reefs, mud

flats, and sandy beaches. Gastropods and chitons are characteristic of these hard substrates,

and bivalves are commonly associated with softer substrates where they burrow into the

sediment. However, there are many exceptions: the largest living bivalve, Tridacna gigas, lives

on coral reefs, and many bivalves (e.g., mussels and oysters) attach themselves to hard

substrates. Some microscopic gastropods even live interstitially between sand grains. Large

concentrations of gastropods and bivalves are found at hydrothermal vents in the deep sea.

Living in these or other dysoxic habitats appears to be a plesiomorphic condition for the

Mollusca and several outgroups. For example, the fauna of Palaeozoic hydrothermal vent

communities includes the molluscan groups Bivalvia, Monoplacophora and Gastropoda as well

as the outgroups Brachiopoda and Annelida.