Gudrun Schwarze


Morphogenesis, gene expression, and metamorphosis in a vermetid gastropod

PhD Student
Advisor: Andreas Wanninger

Unit for Integrative Zoology, Department of Evolutionary Biology
University of Vienna


Gastropods stand out as an fascinating molluscan taxon due to their remarkable diversity in body plans and ecological adaptations, surpassing that of any other molluscan lineage. The vermetid gastropod Thylaeodus rugulosus stands up to this in every way, as it is known for its unique worm-like body and intracapsular development. This FWF-funded Ph.D. project aims to address the lack of comprehensive studies on vermetid morphogenesis and gene expression by comparing them to other gastropod and molluscan species. The research will focus on three main areas. Firstly, the reconstruction of the development of the neuromuscular systems using advanced imaging techniques and comparison to other gastropod species to identify shared and divergent organogenetic mechanisms. Secondly, the analysis of the expression of ecdysis regulating neuropeptides (ERNs) during hatching, settlement, and metamorphosis in vermetids to understand their role in body plan remodelling. Lastly, the dynamics of gene expression during larval and adult shell formation in Thylaeodus rugulosus will be investigated to determine whether gene expression patterns during the larval development changes and to determine consistency or divergence in gene expression patterns during the ontogeny of different mollusc lineages. This comprehensive approach will shed light on the degree of conservation and innovation of key developmental processes during molluscan ontogeny.