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Keywords:

  • asymmetry;
  • Camaenidae;
  • chirality;
  • gastropod;
  • mtDNA phylogeny;
  • pulmonate

Abstract

Diverse animals exhibit left–right asymmetry in development. However, no example of dimorphism for the left–right polarity of development (whole-body enantiomorphy) is known to persist within natural populations. In snails, whole-body enantiomorphs have repeatedly evolved as separate species. Within populations, however, snails are not expected to exhibit enantiomorphy, because of selection against the less common morph resulting from mating disadvantage. Here we present a unique example of evolutionarily stable whole-body enantiomorphy in snails. Our molecular phylogeny of South-east Asian tree snails in the genus Amphidromus indicates that enantiomorphy has likely persisted as the ancestral state over a million generations. Enantiomorphs have continuously coexisted in every population surveyed spanning a period of 10 years. Our results indicate that whole-body enantiomorphy is maintained within populations opposing the rule of directional asymmetry in animals. This study implicates the need for explicit approaches to disclosure of a maintenance mechanism and conservation of the genus.