Nacre and false nacre (foliated aragonite) in extant monoplacophorans (=Tryblidiida: Mollusca)
Extant monoplacophorans (Tryblidiida, Mollusca) have traditionally been reported as having an internal nacreous layer, thus representing the ancestral molluscan condition. The examination of this layer in three species of Neopilinidae (Rokopella euglypta, Veleropilina zografi, and Micropilina arntzi) reveals that only V. zografi secretes an internal layer of true nacre, which occupies only part of the internal shell surface. The rest of the internal surface of V. zografi and the whole internal surfaces of the other two species examined are covered by a material consisting of lath-like, instead of brick-like, crystals, which are arranged into lamellae. In all cases examined, the crystallographic c-axis in this lamellar material is perpendicular to the surface of laths and the a-axis is parallel to their long dimension. The differences between taxa relate to the frequency of twins, which is much higher in Micropilina. In general, the material is well ordered, particularly towards the margin, where lamellae pile up at a small step size, which is most likely due to processes of crystal competition. Given its morphological resemblance to the foliated calcite of bivalves, we propose the name foliated aragonite for this previously undescribed biomaterial secreted by monoplacophorans. We conclude that the foliated aragonite probably lacks preformed interlamellar membranes and is therefore not a variant of nacre. A review of the existing literature reveals that previous reports of nacre in the group were instead of the aragonitic foliated layer and that our report of nacre in V. zografi is the first undisputed evidence of nacre in monoplacophorans. From the evolutionary viewpoint, the foliated aragonite could easily have been derived from nacre. Assuming that nacre represents the ancestral condition, as in other molluscan classes, it has been replaced by foliated aragonite along the tryblidiidan lineage, although the fossil record does not presently provide evidence as to when this replacement took place.