The Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford, Eprints Archive

Mechanical basis of morphogenesis and convergent evolution of spiny seashells

Chirat, R. and Moulton, D. E. and Goriely, A. (2013) Mechanical basis of morphogenesis and convergent evolution of spiny seashells. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110 (15). pp. 6015-6020. ISSN 1091-6490



Convergent evolution is a phenomenon whereby similar traits evolved independently in not closely related species, and is often interpreted in functional terms. Spines in mollusk seashells are classically interpreted as having repeatedly evolved as a defense in response to shell-crushing predators. Here we consider the morphogenetic process that shapes these structures and underlies their repeated emergence. We develop a mathematical model for spine morphogenesis based on the mechanical interaction between the secreting mantle edge and the calcified shell edge to which the mantle adheres during shell growth. It is demonstrated that a large diversity of spine structures can be accounted for through small variations in control parameters of this natural mechanical process. This physical mechanism suggests that convergent evolution of spines can be understood through a generic morphogenetic process, and provides unique perspectives in understanding the phenotypic evolution of this second largest phylum in the animal kingdom.

Homoplasy, the appearance of similar traits in separate evolutionary lineages as a result of convergence, parallelism, or evolutionary reversals, is a major concern in phylogenetic analysis for which it is viewed as noise. However, over the past two decades, homoplasy has also become a subject of increasing interest, stimulated by the rise of evolutionary developmental biology (evo devo) and the wish to uncover the developmental basis of this phenomenon (1⇓–3). Spines constitute the most prominent ornamentation of mollusk shells and have evolved in many distantly related fossil and current mollusk species (at least 55 genera and 21 families of current gastropods; 10 genera and 8 families of current bivalves; 11 genera and 8 families of ammonoids; and 6 fossil nautiloid genera; see Fig. 1 for examples). Convergent evolution of spines in mollusks has been addressed in functional terms, these structures being interpreted as having evolved as a defense in response to shell-crushing predators (4⇓–6). This hypothesis is itself the basis of the widely cited “escalation hypothesis,” according to which long-term trends in the fossil record were caused by the evolutionary response of prey to predation pressure (7). The idea that convergent evolution of similar mollusk ornamentations might be fully explained in functional terms is based on the premise that similar characters, perceived as well designed for a presumed function, cannot conceivably have independently evolved fortuitously. Therefore, natural selection is thought to have repeatedly shaped similar functional traits out of random variations.

Item Type:Article
Subjects:A - C > Biology and other natural sciences
Research Groups:Centre for Mathematical Biology
ID Code:1825
Deposited By: Sara Jolliffe
Deposited On:27 Mar 2014 07:49
Last Modified:29 May 2015 19:31

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