Wenlock creatures: Gastropods

Pleurotomaria lloydii

The gastropods in the image, Pleurotomaria, might have grazed on the crinoids and corals of the Wenlock reef.

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Example of modern marine gastropod

© Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority

A striped dog whelk, Nassarius glans, scavenging for food on the seafloor.

What are gastropods?

Gastropods are a group of molluscs which includes snails and slugs. They are found in many different environments - on land, in rivers and lakes as well as in the sea. Wenlock gastropods lived in the sea, as it wasn't until the Jurassic that snails first appeared on land.

They can be herbivores, scavengers or carnivores. Many gastropods have coiled calcium carbonate shells - although some, such as slugs, have no shell at all. Shell-less gastropods do not fossilise well, but those with shells are very common in rocks of many different ages.

DietSome gastropods graze, some browse, some feed on plankton, others are scavengers or eat detritus while still others are carnivores.

Key facts about Wenlock gastropods

Reef dwellerGastropods lived on and around the Wenlock Reef. Some would have grazed on particles of detritus.

Reef destroyer Other gastropods may have contributed to breaking down the coral skeletons by grazing coral.

Abundance through geological time

AbundanceGastropods have existed since the Cambrian and are very common today. Air-breathing gastropods have existed since the Jurassic.

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