Twisted Shells, Spiral Cells, and Asymmetries: Evo-Devo Lessons Learned from Gastropods

Living reference work entry


Gastropods (snails) are members of the phylum Mollusca and have been studied in a range of evolutionary developmental biology contexts. As members of the third major branch of the bilaterians, Spiralia (Lophotrochozoa) and the most speciose group outside of the arthropods, gastropods present a microcosm of body plan diversity. Historically, gastropods served as major players in comparative embryology research, and the cellular homologies of the spiral cleavage pattern continue to be important in understanding how changes in early development lead to diverse larval and adult phenotypes. The hallmarks of the gastropod body plan (torsion, asymmetry, external coiled shell) and various aspects of their development are being explored in the light of new understanding of gastropod phylogeny and conserved molecular developmental mechanisms. This chapter explores some of the latest Evo-Devo lessons that snails have taught us and suggests areas for renewed attention.


Spiral cleavage Biomineralization Left-right asymmetry Torsion mRNA localization 



The authors acknowledge the invaluable support of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and were supported by NSF grant IOS-1558061 to JQH (JJH). MPL was supported by a postdoctoral fellowship from the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et technologies (FRQ-NT).


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Cell and Developmental BiologyUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Ehab Abouheif
    • 1
  1. 1.Mc Gill UniversityMontrealCanada

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