Gastropod Secretory Glands and Adhesive Gels

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Abstract

Gastropod molluscs are known for slime, yet the complexity and variety of their slimes is not always appreciated. These snails and slugs secrete visco-elastic mucous gels with functions that include feeding, protection, reproduction, locomotion, lubrication, defense, and adhesion (Denny, 1983). While the functional demands of such disparate tasks obviously vary widely, there has been little work on the biochemical variations and different secretory structures that give rise to these functional differences. The general structure and mechanics of Molluscan mucus have been reviewed (Denny, 1983; Smith, 2002), and the biochemical structure of some adhesive gels has been analyzed (Smith, 2006). Nevertheless, we still have a long way to go in characterizing the diversity of these gels and linking differences in structure to differences in their functional properties.