Science

Why do gastropod shells have this shape? – Sciences and future

The shells of gastropods, also called gastropods, are very often in the form called “helicospiral”, they are of great beauty and particularly recognizable. But the typical shape of this class of mollusks is no exception in nature, as Régis Chirat explains to Sciences et Avenir, first author of a study published on November 30, 2021 in the journal PNAS and a professor at the University of Lyon 1 “This mechanism that forms coils is found in other elements of living beings, such as the umbilical cord, or the helical form of DNA.”

The mathematical explanation had been given. Not the biology

But if the various shapes of these shells had already been described in the form of mathematical equations, the biological explanation was yet to be discovered. “The first mathematical descriptions were proposed at the beginning of the 19th century, and since the different forms could be simulated on a computer, until now we did not know the biological engine to form them”, details Mr. Chirat.

Known since the Cambrian explosion 540 million years ago, all gastropods secrete their shells upon opening. Mathematically, this layer can be described as a “helix drawn on a cone, whose two-dimensional projection at the base of the cone is a logarithmic spiral”, explains Régis Chirat. But for the first time, the researchers propose in addition to this description “the biological mechanism that is at the origin”, detailed by the study in its entirety.

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