Morii et al. 2016

Parallel evolution of passive and active defence in land snails

Morii Y*, Prozorova L, Chiba S, 2016. Scientific Reports, 6: 35600. doi: 10.1038.

Press releases in English and Japanese.

Introduced on National Geographic (website), BBC (website), New Scientist (website), Nature (website), NHK (TV), TBS (TV) and many other media.

Reviewed by Dr. Archer CR. on Journal of Experimental Biology. “Archer CR, 2017. Heavily armed snails on the attack. Journal of Experimental Biology, 220: 736–737. doi: 10.1242“.

Reviewed by myself on academist Journal in Japanese.


Predator-prey interactions are major processes promoting phenotypic evolution. However, it remains unclear how predation causes morphological and behavioural diversity in prey species and how it might lead to speciation. Here, we show that substantial divergence in the phenotypic traits of prey species has occurred among closely related land snails as a result of adaptation to predator attacks. This caused the divergence of defensive strategies into two alternatives: passive defence and active defence. Phenotypic traits of the subarctic Karaftohelix land snail have undergone radiation in northeast Asia, and distinctive morphotypes generally coexist in the same regions. In these land snails, we documented two alternative defence behaviours against predation by malacophagous beetles. Furthermore, the behaviours are potentially associated with differences in shell morphology. In addition, molecular phylogenetic analyses indicated that these alternative strategies against predation arose independently on the islands and on the continent suggesting that anti-predator adaptation is a major cause of phenotypic diversity in these snails. Finally, we suggest the potential speciation of Karaftohelix snails as a result of the divergence of defensive strategies into passive and active behaviours and the possibility of species radiation due to anti-predatory adaptations.