A developmentally descriptive method for quantifying shape in gastropod shells
Journal article, 2020

The growth of snail shells can be described by simple mathematical rules. Variation in a few parameters can explain much of the diversity of shell shapes seen in nature. However, empirical studies of gastropod shell shape variation typically use geometric morphometric approaches, which do not capture this growth pattern. We have developed a way to infer a set of developmentally descriptive shape parameters based on three-dimensional logarithmic helicospiral growth and using landmarks from two-dimensional shell images as input. We demonstrate the utility of this approach, and compare it to the geometric morphometric approach, using a large set of Littorina saxatilis shells in which locally adapted populations differ in shape. Our method can be modified easily to make it applicable to a wide range of shell forms, which would allow for investigations of the similarities and differences between and within many different species of gastropods.



shape variation

snail shells


Jenny Larsson

University of Sheffield

Anja Westram

Institute of Science and Technology Austria

Samuel Bengmark

Chalmers, Mathematical Sciences, Algebra and geometry

Torbjörn Lundh

Chalmers, Mathematical Sciences, Applied Mathematics and Statistics

Roger Butlin

University of Sheffield

University of Gothenburg

Journal of the Royal Society Interface

1742-5689 (ISSN) 1742-5662 (eISSN)

Vol. 17 163 0721

Driving Forces

Sustainable development

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Other Mathematics



Basic sciences

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Health Engineering



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