From complex to simple: Myogenesis in an aplacophoran mollusk reveals key traits in aculiferan evolution
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Background: Recent studies suggest a bifurcation at the base of Mollusca, resulting in the primarily single-shelled Conchifera (Bivalvia, Gastropoda, Scaphopoda, Monoplacophora, Cephalopoda) and the spicule-bearing Aculifera (Polyplacophora, Neomeniomorpha, Chaetodermomorpha). A recent study revealed a complex larval musculature exclusively shared by Neomeniomorpha and Polyplacophora, supporting a close relationship of both taxa. However, the ontogenetic transition from the complex larval to the simple adult neomeniomorph musculature, which mainly consists of a three-layered body-wall musculature and serially iterated dorsoventral muscles, remains unknown. To close this gap in knowledge, we studied remodeling of the larval musculature during metamorphosis in the neomeniomorph Wirenia argentea. A comparative analysis with a novel data set of a polyplacophoran, Leptochiton asellus, allows us to infer the morphology of the last common ancestor of Aculifera and the evolution of its subclades therefrom.
Results: The complex larval musculature of Wirenia argentea persists through metamorphosis and becomes modified to form two of the three muscle layers of the adult body wall. The innermost longitudinal layer of the three-layered body wall musculature is generated by transformation and expansion of distinct larval longitudinal muscle bundles. The larval ventrolateral muscle strands are remodeled and eventually become the most ventral part of the adult longitudinal layer of the body wall musculature. The paired larval enrolling muscle forms the lateral parts and the former rectus muscle is destined to become the most dorsal part of the longitudinal layer of the body wall musculature. The transient ventromedian muscle is lost during postmetamorphic development.
Conclusions: Postmetamorphic remodeling in W. argentea supports the hypothesis of a complex myoanatomy rather than a three-layered body wall musculature at the base of Aculifera, and thus argues against homology of the body wall musculature of adult Neomeniomorpha and other potential molluscan sister groups. Our data show that the neomeniomorph body wall musculature is a derived condition and not an aculiferan or molluscan plesiomorphy. *