This study aims at a better understanding of the evolutionary significance of viviparity in some freshwater gastropods. We use a phylogeny based on partial sequences of the mitochondrial 16S gene of representatives of the limnetic and pantropical Pachychilidae to infer the relationships within this particular group of cerithioideans and the evolution of reproductive strategies. The phylogeny presented herein implies a new systematization and suggests that viviparity has appeared three times among the Pachychilidae. This is supported by the finding of very distinct reproductive morphologies in different lineages of viviparous taxa that are exclusively found in Southeast Asia. Based on the observation that oviparity is the ancestral character state in this freshwater family, we conclude that viviparity has evolved subsequent to the exploration of freshwater. We present data showing that all Pachychilidae produce considerably larger but fewer egg capsules compared to most marine snails. In other studies on freshwater gastropods, this has been discussed as an adaptation to freshwater environments. In this context we hypothesize that the increased parental investment involved in the enlargement of eggs in concert with the reduction of clutch sizes was the driving factor that ultimately lead to the evolution of viviparity in the Asian taxa. Consequently, although not directly correlated with the colonization of the new adaptive zone, viviparity is strongly favored by other consequences of this step. Hence, we hypothesize that the production of large eggs, which is necessitated by the exploration of freshwater, represents a preadaptation existing in those ancestors from which viviparous pachychilid lineages eventually evolved in Southeast Asia.
Vol. 58 • No. 10
Vol. 58 • No. 10