The effect of coil phenotypes and genotypes on the fecundity and viability of Partula suturalis and Lymnaea stagnalis: implications for the evolution of sinistral snails


Angus Davison, Institute of Genetics, School of Biology, University of Nottingham, Nottingham NG7 2RD, UK.
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Why are sinistral snails so rare? Two main hypotheses are that selection acts against the establishment of new coiling morphs, because dextral and sinistral snails have trouble mating, or else a developmental constraint prevents the establishment of sinistrals. We therefore used an isolate of the snail Lymnaea stagnalis, in which sinistrals are rare, and populations of Partula suturalis, in which sinistrals are common, as well as a mathematical model, to understand the circumstances by which new morphs evolve. The main finding is that the sinistral genotype is associated with reduced egg viability in L. stagnalis, but in P. suturalis individuals of sinistral and dextral genotype appear equally fecund, implying a lack of a constraint. As positive frequency-dependent selection against the rare chiral morph in P. suturalis also operates over a narrow range (< 3%), the results suggest a model for chiral evolution in snails in which weak positive frequency-dependent selection may be overcome by a negative frequency-dependent selection, such as reproductive character displacement. In snails, there is not always a developmental constraint. As the direction of cleavage, and thus the directional asymmetry of the entire body, does not generally vary in other Spiralia (annelids, echiurans, vestimentiferans, sipunculids and nemerteans), it remains an open question as to whether this is because of a constraint and/or because most taxa do not have a conspicuous external asymmetry (like a shell) upon which selection can act.