, Volume 605, Issue 1, pp 173–182 | Cite as

Quantifying phenotypic gradients in freshwater snails: a case study in Lithasia (Gastropoda: Pleuroceridae)

  • Russell L. MintonEmail author
  • Andrew P. Norwood
  • David M. Hayes
Primary research paper


Many authors have described a pattern of morphological variation in freshwater bivalves where shells taken from lentic and lotic environments, or headwaters and main stem reaches, appear to exhibit phenotypic gradients in size and shape. For example, mussels taken from headwater reaches tend to possess smooth, less inflated shells compared to the more obese, sculptured individuals downstream. Others observed similar relationships in certain freshwater gastropods, but this variation has not been quantified nor its existence explained in an ecological or evolutionary context. Geometric morphometrics indicated freshwater snails shells from the pleurocerid genus Lithasia from the Duck River, Tennessee, USA, show phenotypic gradients similar to those in freshwater mussels. Shells from upstream areas were narrow and less sculptured on the posterior portions of their body whorls, while downstream shells were more inflated and possessed significantly more sculpture. This phenotypic variation may reduce predation or damage due to dislodging. The nature of the observed plasticity suggests an unidirectional environment similar to that proposed by the river continuum concept.


Lithasia Freshwater Gastropod Phenotypic plasticity Geometric morphometrics 



Jay Snell and Kim Swanger helped with digital imaging and landmarking. Kathryn E. Perez and three anonymous reviewers provided valuable comments toward improving the manuscript. G. Thomas Watters provided access to the specimens at OSU. The authors were partially supported by a Howard Hughes Medical Institute undergraduate science education grant awarded to ULM.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Russell L. Minton
    • 1
    Email author
  • Andrew P. Norwood
    • 1
  • David M. Hayes
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of Louisiana at MonroeMonroeUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesArkansas State UniversityState UniversityUSA

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