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Molluscans are very diverse animals and make up a significant part of the world’s ecosystem.

Molluscs (also known as molluscs) are smooth-bodied, bilaterally symmetrical, stratified, coelomatous animals; usually shelled with a mantle, ventral foot, anterior head, and visceral dorsal mass. Molluscans are very diverse animals and make up a significant part of the world’s ecosystem. Phylum Mollusca belongs to some animals you are familiar with, such as snails, octopuses, squids, oysters, clams, etc. Did you know Molluscs can produce pearls with shells? Some of these are also consumed by humans in different parts of the world. Let us educate ourselves on this phylum of the Kingdom of Animals.

Molluscs include mussels, scallops, oysters, periwinkles, whelks, squid, clams, snails, and octopus.

These are the special features of Mollusca.

Phylum Mollusca is a very diverse group of mainly marine species (85,000 species), with a dramatic range of forms. Aplacophora, Monoplacophora, Polyplacophora, Bivalvia, Gastropoda, Cephalopoda, and Scaphopoda can be divided into seven groups.

Class Aplacophora (“bearing no plates”) includes worm-like species found mainly in marine benthic habitats. Such species lack a calcareous shell but, on their epidermis, they possess aragonite spicules. They have a small cavity in their mantle and lack arms, tentacles and nephridia (excretory organs).

Class members Monoplacophora (“bearing one plate”) have a small, cap-like shell enclosing the body. The shell and underlying animal morphology can vary from circular to ovate. Among these species, there is a looped digestive system, several pairs of excretory glands, several gills and a number of gonads. Before the discovery of Neopilina galatheae in 1952, the monoplacophorans were considered extinct and known only from fossil records. Scientists have described almost two dozen species that exist today.

Animals in the Polyplacophora class (“bearing several plates”) are generally referred to as “chitons” and carry an eight-plated armour-like dorsal shell. These animals have a long, ventral foot that is adapted for suction to rocks and other substrates, and a mantle in the shape of a girdle that extends beyond the shell. Calcareous spines may be present on the girdle to provide predator defense. Chitons survive in cold water, warm water and tropics all over the world. Many species of chiton inhabit intertidal or subtidal areas, and do not extend beyond the photic zone. Some species live quite high in the intertidal zone, and have long periods of exposure to air and light.

Bivalvia is a class of freshwater and aquatic molluscs with laterally compressed bodies enclosed in two hinged sections by a shell. Bivalves include clams, oysters, mussels, scallops and many other shell families. Many are filter feeders and have neither head nor radula. The gills have evolved into ctenidia, organs adapted to feed and breathe. Some bivalves bury themselves on the seabed in sediments, while others lie on the seafloor or attach to rocks or other hard surfaces. A bivalve’s shell is composed of calcium carbonate, and consists of two parts called valves, typically identical. They are linked together along one edge by a flexible ligament that forms the hinge in combination with the interlocking “teeth” on each of the valves.

Animals in the Gastropoda class (“stomach foot”) include well-known mollusks, such as snails, slugs, conch, sea hares, and marine butterflies. Gastropoda contains both shell-bearing species and reduced-shell species. These species are asymmetric and usually have a coiled shell. Shells may be planospiral (like a wounded garden hose), commonly seen in snails in the garden, or conispiral (like a spiral staircase), commonly seen in marine conches. The visceral mass in the shelled species displays torsion at the center of the foot along the perpendicular axis, which is the main feature of this category, along with a foot that is adapted to crawl. Many gastropods have a head that includes tentacles, eyes and a style. The digestive system utilizes a complex radula and assists in the digestion of food. In some gastropods the eyes may be absent.

Class Cephalopoda (animals with the “head foot”) comprises octopi, squids, cuttlefish and nautilus. Cephalopods are a class of shell-bearing animals, as well as a reduced shell mollusc. They exhibit vibrant coloring, usually seen in squids and octopi used for camouflage purposes. Both species in this class are carnivorous predators, and on the anterior end have beak-like jaws. Both cephalopods demonstrate the presence, along with eyes, of a very well developed nervous system and a closed circulatory system. The foot is lobed and converted into tentacles and a funnel which is used as the locomotion mode. Locomotion in cephalopods is enabled by ejecting a propulsive stream of water (“jet” propulsion). Cephalopods, such as squids and octopi, also develop sepia or a dark ink that is squirted on a predator to help getaway quickly. Suckers are present at octopi and squid on tentacles. Ctenidia is enclosed in a large mantle cavity that is serviced by blood vessels, each with its own nucleus. The mantle contains siphonophores, which facilitate water exchange.

Members of the Scaphopoda class (“boat feet”) are known colloquially as “tusk shells” or “tooth shells” as is evident when studying Dentalium, one of the few remaining genera of scaphopods. Scaphopods are normally submerged in sand with water visible from the anterior mouth. Such species wear a single conical shell, which has two open ends. The head is small, and protrudes from the shell’s back end. Such species do not have skin, but they have a radula, as well as a foot that has been turned into tentacles with a bulbous end called captaculae. Captaculae exist for catching and handling prey. Among these species, ctenidia are absent

Teredo, the shipworm burrows into wooden structures steeped in the sea, causing severe damage to ships, piers and wharves. Yet molluscs are a great source of human food in different parts of the world, consuming millions of clams, oysters, scallops in China, Japan, Malaya, Europe and America, oysters being considered a delicacy. In Europe, other bivalves, octopuses and cuttlefishes furnish large amounts of food. Shells of freshwater mussels are used in the pearl button industry in all parts of the world, they are made of the nacreous shell layer, no other material is used for washing as these buttons Oyster shells are mixed with tar to create roads in America and lime from these shells is used for the formulation of their egg shells in feeding poultry. Lime is used in buildings too. Many freshwater clams and marine oysters generate pearls, but the most ecologically valuable pearls are produced by pearl oysters.Pinctada margaritifera and Pinctada mertensi which live along the coasts of China, India, Sri Lanka and Japan in the warmer parts of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. A pearl is made when a small foreign object lodges between the shell and the mantle, such as a particle of sand or a parasite

Marine molluscs are very important while most of them are used as food, they also have other purposes such as making crafts, dyeing cotton, yarn and clothing, etc., so they have earned special attention and become an economically essential resource.

Molluscs are found in nearly every habitat on Earth where they are often the most noticeable organisms. While most are found in the marine ecosystem, extending from the intertidal to the deepest oceans, so many major clades of gastropods predominantly live in freshwater or land habitats.

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