Poecilogony is the intraspecific variation in developmental mode, with larvae of different types produced by the same individual, population or species. It is very rare among marine invertebrates, and in gastropods has long been described only in a few opisthobranchs. The physiological and regulatory mechanisms underlying larval evolutionary transitions, such as loss of planktotrophy that occurred repeatedly in many caenogastropod lineages, are still largely unknown. We have studied the inter- v. intraspecific variation in larval development in the north-east Atlantic neogastropod genus Raphitoma Bellardi, 1847, starting with an iterative taxonomy approach: 17 morphology-based Preliminary Species Hypotheses were tested against a COI molecular-distance-based method (ABGD), and the retained species hypotheses were eventually inspected for reciprocal monophyly on a multilocus dataset. We subsequently performed an ancestral state reconstruction on an ultrametric tree of the 10 Final Species Hypotheses, time-calibrated by fossils, revealing that the interspecific changes were planktotrophy > lecithotrophy, and all have occurred in the Pleistocene, after 2.5 million years ago. This is suggestive of a major role played by Pleistocene Mediterranean oceanographic conditions – enhanced oligotrophy, unpredictable availability of water column resources – likely to favour loss of planktotrophy. Within this group of species, which has diversified after the Miocene, we identified one pair of sibling species differing in their larval development, Raphitoma cordieri (Payraudeau, 1826) and R. horrida (Monterosato, 1884). However, we also identified two Final Species Hypotheses, each comprising individuals with both larval developmental types. Our working hypothesis is that they correspond to one or two poecilogonous species. If confirmed by other nuclear markers, this would be the first documentation of poecilogony in the Neogastropoda, and the second in the whole Caenogastropoda. Although sibling species with different developmental strategies may offer good models to study some evolutionary aspects, poecilogonous taxa are optimally suited for identifying regulatory and developmental mechanisms underlying evolutionary transitions.
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Vol. 34 • No. 3