The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 58: 601 - 611 (2014)

Vol 58, Issue 6-7-8

Special Issue: Spiralian Model Systems

The development of viable and nutritive embryos in the direct developing gastropod Crepidula navicella

Published: 15 January 2015

Maryna P. Lesoway1,2, Ehab Abouheif*,1 and Rachel Collin*,2

1McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada and 2Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Balboa, Ancon, Republic of Panama


Adelphophagy occurs when encapsulated embryos complete development by feeding on their developing siblings, which are known as nutritive embryos. Nutritive embryos are found in a variety of animal groups, and are especially common in some groups of marine invertebrates. Although they have evolved numerous times independently in the calyptraeid gastropods, adelphophagic development with nutritive embryos has not been described in detail. Using light microscopy and time-lapse imaging of laboratory-reared embryos, we describe the development of Crepidula navicella, a direct developer with nutritive embryos that cleave and gastrulate. Early stages of nutritive and viable embryos do not show any obvious morphological differences, but do show asynchrony in early cleavage among embryos from the same capsule. We discovered that two classes of nutritive embryos are produced; gastrula-like nutritive embryos, which arrest after gastrulation, and post-gastrula-like nutritive embryos that are more variable in morphology, and show evidence of minor differentiation. This study provides a framework for future research on the developmental and molecular mechanisms of nutritive embryo development of C. navicella, which will allow us to address the role of nutritive embryos in the origins of developmental polyphenisms. Careful description of the developmental sequence is necessary before adaptive hypotheses can be addressed, and comparisons with other taxa can be made. Understanding the different ways that embryos and their development are disrupted to produce nutritive embryos will provide important insights into the normal process of development.


developmental timeline, adelphophagy, nutritive embryos, nurse eggs, trophic eggs

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