Optimal growth pattern of defensive organs: The diversity of shell growth among mollusks

Takahiro Irie, Yoh Iwasa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Mollusks show a diversity of shell growth patterns. We develop a model for the dynamic resource allocation to defense organs and analyze it with the Pontryagin maximum principle. A typical optimal growth schedule is composed of the initial phase of soft-body growth without shell followed by a simultaneous growth of shell and soft body and finally the reproductive phase without growth (simultaneous shell growth). If the defensible predation risk is low or if the cost of defense is high, the optimal strategy is to have no shell (shell-less growth). If defensible predation pressure or general mortality differs before and after maturation, an additional three strategies, characteristic of the exclusive growth of shell or soft body, can be optimal (sequential shell growth, additional body-expansion growth, and additional callus-building growth). These optimal strategies are in accord with the patterns observed for mollusks. In particular, the growth strategies with exclusive growth phase of external shells are preferred when durophagous predation pressure after maturation is higher than that before maturation. This result explains the observation that many tropical gastropods with thickened shell lips spend their vulnerable juvenile phase in sheltered habitats.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)238-249
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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