Molluscan Phylogeny: The Paleontological Viewpoint

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Science  25 Oct 1974:
Vol. 186, Issue 4161, pp. 311-317
DOI: 10.1126/science.186.4161.311


Stasek (1) theorized that the extant mollusks are the progeny of three separate lineages that separated before the phylum was well established. He wrote that no known intermediate forms, fossil or living, bridge the "enormous gaps between any two of the three lineages," and therefore treated each as a separate subphylum. These subphyla are (i) the subphylum Aculifera Hatscheck 1891, containing only the class Aplacophora, derived from the most primitive ancestors of the Mollusca; (ii) the subphylum Placophora von Jhering 1876, containing only the class Polyplacophora, and emphasizing the pseudometamerism of its more advanced premollusk ancestor; and (iii) the subphylum Conchifera Gegenbaur 1878, containing the Monoplacophora and the other classes derived from it.

We point out that the Polyplacophora may be derived from the Monoplacophora instead of a more primitive ancestral stock. We also suggest that the Conchifera can be separated into two major lineages, each worthy of the rank of subphylum. The fossil record indicates that the Monoplacophora gave rise to the Gastropoda, Cephalopoda, Rostroconchia, and possibly Polyplacophora, and that the Pelecypoda and Scaphopoda are derived from the Rostroconchia. These last three classes thus form a lineage that diverged from the Monoplacophora in the Early Cambrian. They emphasized a shell form that in all groups is primitively open at both ends, allowing the gut to remain relatively straight, with an anterior mouth and posterior anus. They became burrowing (infaunal) deposit or filter feeders. We coin the term Diasoma (through-body) for the subphylum containing these three classes (Rostroconchia, Pelecypoda, and Scaphopoda). The remaining three classes (Monoplacophora, Gastropoda, and Cephalopoda) emphasize a conical univalved shell, usually twisted into a spiral. The relatively small single aperture forces the anus to lie close to the mouth, and the gut is bent into a "U." Most are surface-dwelling (epifaunal) grazers or carnivores. We coin the name Cyrtosoma (hunchback-body) for the subphylum containing these three classes. Strictly speaking, the cyrtosomes are the ancestors of the diasomes but, in fact, both subphyla appeared and began to diversify within a few million years in the Early Cambrian.

Note added in proof: After proofs were corrected we were informed that the new genus Opikella (40) is preoccupied by (Öpikella = Oepikella) Thorslund 1940, an Ordovican ostracod. We rename the mollusk genus Oepikila.

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