Friday 23 November 2012

A new species of Slipper Limpet from Chile.

Slipper Limpets, Calyptriaeidae, are new world Gastropods more closely related to Conches and Cowries than to true Limpets; they are so named because their shells tend to be broad, flat and relatively unwhorled (though not conical as in a true Limpet). The inside of the shell contains a half-shelf, which resembles a slipper or shoe to some people, hence the slipper part of the name. The living snails have a tendency to form chains of animals, with up to 25 individuals perched on top of one another. In such chains only the bottom animal will be female, all the others male. When the female dies, the next male in the chain changes sex and becomes a female (all the animals develop as males initially).

In a paper published in the journal Molluscan Research on 28 September 2012, David Veliz of the Departamento de Ciencias Ecológicas and Instituto de Ecología y Biodiversidad at the Universidad de Chile, Federico Winkler of the Departamento de Biología Marina at the Universidad Católica del Norte, Chita Guisado of the Facultad de Ciencias del Mar y Recursos Naturales at the Universidad de Valparaíso and Rachel Collin of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute describe a new species of Slipper Limpet from the intertidal zones of northern Chile.

The new species is placed in the genus Crepipatella, and given the specific name occulta, referring to the fact that it is a cryptic species, previously hidden within documented populations of other species. Crepipatella occulta resembles both other species of Crepipatella found in the region, Crepipatella dilatata and Crepipatella peruviana, but differs from them in its development. 

Crepipatella peruviana has a planktic larval stage, whereas Crepipatella dilatata lays its eggs in capsules with non-developing 'nurse-eggs', upon which the young Snails feed before emerging as miniature adults. Crepipatella occulta also produces an egg capsule, but one which lacks nurse-eggs, rather the young snails feed on less fast-developing embryos (so called 'nurse-embryos') before emerging, in a manner similar to the interuterine cannibalism seen in some Sharks, Teleost Fish and Salamanders.

Crepipatella occulta; (top) juvenile, the arrow indicates the point at which the Snail left the egg capsule, (bottom) growth series. Veliz et al. (2012).

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