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Keywords:

  • locomotion;
  • reproduction;
  • gamete release;
  • dispersal;
  • microgastropods

Abstract. Thousands of minute scissurellid gastropods (Vetigastropoda: Scissurellidae) were observed and collected at floating light traps in Moorea, French Polynesia, where a mass spawning event occurred on November 11, 2002. More than 20,000 live snails were recovered from the traps, and epidemic spawning continued in the laboratory, where clouds of white sperm and red-orange eggs were broadcast into the water. No aggregations of this magnitude have been reported previously in vetigastropods, nor is the capacity for sustained swimming known from other vetigastropod taxa. Snails had emerged from a local benthic habitat of coral sand and swum through ≥2 m of water to reach the traps. Scanning electron micrographs of the ornate shells confirm the identity of the most abundant species as Scissurella spinosa, with lesser numbers of Sinezona plicata. Our observations indicate that scissurellids are not exclusively benthic and that they are not rare, even though they have seldom been collected and studied alive. Because little is known about the basic biology and anatomy of scissurellids and because their position within the basal Gastropoda is poorly resolved, we include information on the design and construction of inexpensive light traps to promote comparative investigation of other poorly known species.