Brief SummaryRead full entry
The phylum Mollusca contains some of the most familiar invertebrates, including snails, slugs, clams, mussels, and octopuses. In contrast to these well-known molluscs, however, others are almost never seen, such as the aplacophorans and monoplacophorans, the latter of which which were only known from Paleozoic fossils until the first live specimen was discovered in the deep sea in 1952 (UCMP 2008).
Except for the aplacophorans, most molluscs have a well-developed, muscular foot. This structure is used in a multitude of ways, for example: locomotion, clinging to surfaces, burrowing, anchoring in sediment, swimming, and grasping (modified into prehensile tentacles in octopuses). The vast diversity of foot adaptations exemplifies the huge morphological diversity of the mollusc form.
A layer of epidermal tissue called the mantle surrounds the body of molluscs. Specialized glands in the mantle are responsible for the extracellular excretions that form shell structures. In all molluscan groups the shell is produced in layers of (usually) calcium carbonate, either in calcite or aragonite form.
Molluscs have adapted to terrestrial, marine and freshwater habitats all over the globe, although most molluscs are marine. Nearly 100,000 mollusc species are known (excluding the large number of extinct species known only as fossils) and it is clear that many thousands of species of extant species remain undescribed. Around 80% of known molluscs are gastropods (snails and slugs).