Superphylum Lophotrochozoa: Molluscs and Annelids

Section Summary

Phylum Mollusca is a large, group of protostome schizocoelous invertebrates that occupy marine, freshwater, and terrestrial habitats. Mollusks can be divided into seven classes, each of which exhibits variations on the basic molluscan body plan. Two defining features are the mantle, which secretes a protective calcareous shell in many species, and the radula, a rasping feeding organ found in most classes. Some mollusks have evolved a reduced shell, and others have no radula. The mantle also covers the body and forms a mantle cavity, which is quite distinct from the coelomic cavity—typically reduced to the area surrounding the heart, kidneys, and intestine. In aquatic mollusks, respiration is facilitated by gills (ctenidia) in the mantle cavity. In terrestrial mollusks, the mantle cavity itself serves as an organ of gas exchange. Mollusks also have a muscular foot, which is modified in various ways for locomotion or food capture. Most mollusks have separate sexes. Early development in aquatic species occurs via one or more larval stages, including a trochophore larva, that precedes a veliger larva in some groups.

Phylum Annelida includes vermiform, segmented animals. Segmentation is metameric (i.e., each segment is partitioned internally as well as externally, with various structures repeated in each segment). These animals have well-developed neuronal, circulatory, and digestive systems. The two major groups of annelids are the polychaetes, which have parapodia with multiple bristles, and oligochaetes, which have no parapodia and fewer bristles or no bristles. Oligochaetes, which include earthworms and leeches, have a specialized band of segments known as a clitellum, which secretes a cocoon and protects gametes during reproduction. The leeches do not have full internal segmentation. Reproductive strategies include separate sexes, hermaphroditism, and serial hermaphroditism. Polychaetes typically have trochophore larvae, while the oligochaetes develop more directly.