New FWF Project: Morphology and development of worm snails


Andreas Wanninger

Unit for Integrative Zoology
Department of Evolutionary Biology

Project number: PAT 5754123 Einzelprojekte

approved October 2nd 2023


Vermetids are worm-like, sessile, suspension-feeding gastropod mollusks that live permanently cemented to hard substrates in a tubular shell. They are entirely marine and may form calcareous reefs. Their strongly elongated body with a pronounced longitudinal (anterior-posterior; AP) axis differs considerably from the majority of gastropods, especially from the snail-like phenotype with a coiled shell. Despite their wide distribution and ecological importance as reef builders and potential invasive species, very little is known about the anatomy and ontogeny of these animals. Data on the molecular pathways that underlie their development are virtually non-existent. This project reconstructs morphogenesis of the vermetid Thylaeodus rugulosus from egg through the larval to the adult stage. Using this as a reference, expression of the axial patterning Hox/ParaHox genes and factors from the Nodal pathway known to be involved in establishing bodyplan asymmetries will be investigated. For this, a tight chronological series of transcriptomes and a high-quality genome of Thylaeodus rugulosus will be generated. This project will establish worm snails as new models for evodevo, -omics, and ecological research.