Student Research Projects

Dentition and radula morphology in an undescribed Ercolania species (Mollusca: Opisthobranchia: Ascoglossa)

Student Ashley Sibley, '17
Faculty Mentor(s)
Department Biology
Course Biology 489: Research in the Natural Sciences


Ascoglossans are opisthobranchs that exhibit specialized feeding behavior on various green
algae species. They use their radula to drill a hole in the algal cell to consume the contents. The
ascoglossan radula exhibits morphological adaptations that reflect its specific diet. Radula
morphology is also significant evolutionarily and can be used to determine phylogenetic
relationships. In this study, the morphology of radulae of an undescribed Ercolania species was documented. The size, structure, and dentition were examined using the scanning electron microscope (SEM). The number of teeth in the radula ribbon ranged from 4-5. The shape of the teeth was spoon or sabot shaped with a smooth, cutting edge and lacking dentition. This is similar to all other documented Ercolania species and is one of the currently accepted generic, familial and ordinal characteristics of the genus Ercolania, Family Limapontiidae and Order Ascoglossa. The mean number of teeth for each radula was five (n=8). The length of the radula ribbon ranged from 430.00 - 602.13 micrometers with the leading tooth ranging from 107.52- 188.45 micrometers. The leading tooth for specimens in this study is smaller than the leading tooth for other Ercolania species. Differences in these lengths could be due to differences in overall body size of the different species.


Virginia Wesleyan Undergraduate Research Conference Grant, 2015-16.