The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 58: 585 - 591 (2014)

Vol 58, Issue 6-7-8

Special Issue: Spiralian Model Systems

From trochophore to pilidium and back again - a larva’s journey

Published: 15 January 2015

Svetlana A. Maslakova* and Terra C. Hiebert

Oregon Institute of Marine Biology, University of Oregon, OR, USA


Nemerteans, a phylum of marine lophotrochozoan worms, have a biphasic life history with benthic adults and planktonic larvae. Nemertean larval development is traditionally categorized into direct and indirect. Indirect development via a long-lived planktotrophic pilidium larva is thought to have evolved in one clade of nemerteans, the Pilidiophora, from an ancestor with a uniformly ciliated planuliform larva. Planuliform larvae in a member of a basal nemertean group, the Palaeonemertea, have been previously shown to possess a vestigial prototroch, homologous to the primary larval ciliated band in the trochophores of other spiralian phyla, such as annelids and mollusks. We review literature on nemertean larval development, and include our own unpublished observations. We highlight recent discoveries of numerous pilidiophoran species with lecithotrophic larvae. Some of these larvae superficially resemble uniformly ciliated planuliform larvae of other nemerteans. Others possess one or two transverse ciliary bands, which superficially resemble the prototroch and telotroch of some spiralian trochophores. We also summarize accumulating evidence for planktotrophic feeding by larvae of the order Hoplonemertea, which until now were considered to be lecithotrophic. We suggest that 1) non-feeding pilidiophoran larval forms are derived from a feeding pilidium; 2) such forms have likely evolved many times independently within the Pilidiophora; 3) any resemblance of such larvae to the trochophores of other spiralians is a result of convergence and that 4) the possibility of planktotrophy in hoplonemertean larvae may influence estimates of pelagic larval duration, dispersal, and population connectivity in this group.


nemertea, larval development, lecithotrophy, planktotrophy

Full text in web format is not available for this article. Please download the PDF version.