Adelphophagy, development where embryos grow large by consuming morphologically distinct nutritive embryos or their own normal siblings is widespread but uncommon among animal phyla. Among invertebrates it is particularly common in some families of marine gastropods and segmented worms, but rare or unknown in other closely related families. In calyptraeid gastropods phylogenetic analysis indicates that adelphophagy has arisen at least 9 times from species with planktotrophic larval development. This pattern of frequent parallel evolution of adelphophagy suggests that the embryos of planktotrophic species might be predisposed to evolve adelphophagy. Here we used embryos of three species of planktotrophic calyptraeids, one from each of three major genera in the family (Bostrycapulus, Crucibulum, and Crepidula), to answer the following 3 questions: (1) Can embryos of species with planktotrophic development benefit, in terms of pre-hatching growth, from the ingestion of yolk and tissue from experimentally damaged siblings? (2) Does ingestion of this material from damaged siblings increase variation in pre-hatching size? and (3) Does this experimentally induced adelphophagy alter the allometry between the velum and the shell, increasing morphological similarity to embryos of normally adelphophagic species? We found an overall increase in shell length and velum diameter when embryos feed on damaged siblings within their capsules. There was no detectable increase in variation in shell length or velum diameter, or changes in allometry. The overall effect of our treatment was small compared to the embryonic growth observed in naturally adelphophagic development. However each embryo in our experiment probably consumed less than one sibling on average, whereas natural adelphophages often each consume 10-30 or more siblings. These results suggest that the ability to consume, assimilate, and benefit from yolk and tissue of their siblings is widespread across calyptraeids.
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