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Keywords:

  • Cenozoic;
  • continental ecosystems;
  • Iberia;
  • molluscs;
  • palaeoecology;
  • prodissoconch morphology;
  • protoconch morphology

Molluscs from marginal marine and intra-continental basins of the Iberian Peninsula are described with special emphasis on the early ontogenetic shell formation, which reflects the embryogenesis and larval ecology. The fossils, covering a time span from the Early Oligocene to the Early Pleistocene, are compared to contemporaneous fossil faunas of the Mediterranean and Paratethys, and to extant Mediterranean faunas. Larval shells occur in bivalves and gastropods of Upper Tortonian coastal lagoons near Crevillente (Alicante), indicating marine larval stages and a connection of the adult habitat with the open sea. The euryhaline marginal marine gastropods display planktotrophic larval shells, which enable a marine distribution, but prevented generally euryhaline genera, such as Granulolabium and Terebralia (Cerithioidea, Potamididae), from colonizing continental saline ecosystems. The establishment of athalassic saline populations implies the preadaptational loss of planktotrophy. For the first time lecithotrophic larval development in an athalassic saline system is documented for Potamides gaudryi (Cerithioidea, Potamididae) from the late Middle to early Upper Miocene of the Duero Basin. With regard to the early ontogenetic development, P. gaudryi is distinguished from its possible descendant, the extant Potamides conicus (Blainville, 1829), which represents a direct developer that lacks any larval stage. In comparison to direct development, lecithotrophic larval development was advantageous in the colonization of temporary habitats, such as flood areas. Two different modes of direct development with hatching of crawling young are documented: Feeding on embryonic yolk until the hatching stage and adelphophagy. Adelphophagous embryonic development appears to be advantageous in neritids, thiarids and pulmonates that live in habitats with strong predation of juvenile fishes based on the advanced developmental stage and larger shell size of the hatchlings.