Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: mollusc (US mollusk) from The Penguin Dictionary of Science

A member of the animal ➤phylum Mollusca, comprising organisms without segmented bodies and typically possessing a muscular foot. Examples include the gastropod snails and slugs and the lamellibranchs such as mussels and clams. The most advanced molluscs are the cephalopods, which include squid, cuttlefish and octopus.

Summary Article: mollusc
From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Any of a group of invertebrate animals, most of which have a body divided into three parts: a head, a central mass containing the main organs, and a foot for movement; the more sophisticated octopuses and related molluscs have arms to capture their prey. The majority of molluscs are marine animals, but some live in fresh water, and a few live on land. They include clams, mussels, and oysters (bivalves), snails and slugs (gastropods), and cuttlefish, squids, and octopuses (cephalopods). The body is soft, without limbs (except for the cephalopods), and cold-blooded. There is no internal skeleton, but many species have a hard shell covering the body. (Phylum Mollusca.)

Molluscs have varying diets, the carnivorous species feeding mainly on other molluscs. Some are vegetarian. Reproduction is by means of eggs and is sexual; many species are hermaphrodite (having both male and female reproductive organs). The shells of molluscs take a variety of forms: single or univalve (like the snail), double or bivalve (like the clam), chambered (like the nautilus), and many other variations. In some cases (for example, cuttlefish and squid), the shell is internal. Every mollusc has a fold of skin, the mantle, which covers either the whole body or only the back, and secretes the chalky substance that forms the shell. The lower ventral surface (belly area) of the body forms the foot, which enables the mollusc to move about.

Shellfish (oysters, mussels, clams) are commercially valuable, especially when artificially bred and ‘farmed’. The Romans, and in the 17th century the Japanese, experimented with advanced methods of farming shellfish, and raft culture of oysters is now widely practised. The cultivation of pearls, pioneered by Kokichi Mikimoto, began in the 1890s and became an important export industry after World War I.




sea slug

© RM, 2018. All rights reserved.

Related Articles

Full text Article mollusc
The Macmillan Encyclopedia

An invertebrate animal belonging to the phylum Mollusca (about 50 000 species). Molluscs occupy marine, freshwater, and terrestrial...

Full text Article mollusc
Philip's Encyclopedia

Any of more than 80,000 species of invertebrate animals in the phylum Mollusca. They include the snails , clams and squids . Originally...

Full text Article mollusc
Word Origins

[18 century] Etymologically, a mollusc is a ‘soft’ creature. The word comes ultimately from Latin molluscus ‘soft’, a derivative of ...

See more from Credo