The mechanism of shell elevation in Haliotis (Mollusca: Gastropoda) and a consideration of the evolution of the hydrostatic skeleton in Mollusca



Early in molluscan evolution, the development of a conical shell with shell or pedal retractor muscles led to the need of a mechanism for the extension of the foot or the raising of the shell. The forces generated during pedal retraction and extension have been studied in Haliotis midae, an easily obtainable and conveniently large archaeogastropod. In the mantle cavity, cephalopedal venous sinus and ventricle pressure pulses were observed during pedal retraction elicited by the shadow withdrawal reflex, but were never present during extension. However, pressure pulses were recorded in the proximal region of the columellar (or shell) muscle, both during retraction and pedal extension. Sections of this region of the muscle show a three dimensional network of muscle fibres, consisting of retractor fibres passing down to the foot and circumferential and radial fibres. Contraction of the two latter sets of fibres would bring about extension of the retractors, without the use of a discrete hydrostatic skeleton, and appears to be the principal mechanism of pedal extension. Similar muscular structures, here termed the muscular antagonistic system, have been observed in the columellar muscle of other gastropods and in the cephalopod mantle. In contrast, this system has not been observed in the proximal region of the pedal retractors of bivalves or scaphopods, for the pedal haemocoel, which allows muscular antagonism in the manner of a classical hydrostatic skeleton, has developed in association with the burrowing habit. The significance of the muscular antagonistic system in molluscan evolution is discussed.