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Evolution of planktonic gastropods

Planktonic gastropods have been the subject of intense research into the effects of ocean acidification and are proposed as bioindicators to monitor the impacts of global change on open ocean ecosystems.

Planktonic gastropods have tremendous potential for the study of long-term marine evolutionary processes, because they are the only living metazoan plankton with a good fossil record. Although most marine gastropods are benthic, two large groups (informally referred to as 'pteropods' and 'heteropods') have a holoplanktonic lifestyle and represent independent colonizations of the open water column. Planktonic gastropods are potential bioindicators of the effects of ocean acidification because they have thin shells of aragonite, a form of calcium carbonate that is ~50% more soluble than calcite. However, we know little about their evolutionary potential. For instance, how much genetic and morphological variability is present within natural populations? At what spatial scales can pterpods adapt locally? How does the ocean environment drive spatial patterns of both neutral and adaptive genetic variation in pteropods?