Strong, Ellen E. Department of Invertebrate Zoology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.
Last reviewed:October 2019
- Phylogeny and Classification
- Diversity and Trends
- Invasion of Freshwater
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
One of five main groups of gastropods (snails) in the phylum Mollusca (snails, clams, squids, and their relatives). With approximately 190 families in 29 superfamilies (see table), caenogastropods form a large, mostly marine group, including about 60% of all living gastropod species. They are especially diverse in the tropics, but have invaded virtually every marine habitat from supratidal to hadal depths (ocean trenches) and have conquered freshwater and terrestrial habitats on every continent except Antarctica. They are usually prominent members of their communities and often dominate numerically and in terms of biomass; as such, they are ecologically important, playing vital roles in nutrient cycling and ecosystem maintenance and function. This remarkable ecological diversity has been accompanied by an equally remarkable diversification in morphology, physiology, life history, and behavior. The group includes many well-known and collectible shells, including Cypraeidae (cowries), Muricidae (rock shells), Volutidae (balers), and Conidae (cones), as well as four of the top five most speciose molluscan families (Cerithiopsidae, Eulimidae, Triphoridae, and Turridae). See also: Ecological communities; Ecology; Gastropoda; Marine ecology; Mollusca
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