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Title: Heterobranchia  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Nudipleura, Opisthobranchia, Taxonomy of the Gastropoda (Bouchet & Rocroi, 2005), Euopisthobranchia, Euthyneura
Collection: Gastropods, Heterobranchia
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Some examples of Heterobranchia
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Mollusca
Class: Gastropoda
(unranked): clade Heterobranchia
J.E. Gray, 1840
Taxonomic subcategories

informal group Lower Heterobranchia
clade Nudipleura
clade Euopisthobranchia
clade Panpulmonata

Heterobranchia, the heterobranchs (meaning "different-gilled snails"), is a taxonomic clade of snails and slugs, which includes marine, aquatic and terrestrial gastropod mollusks.

Heterobranchia is one of the main clades of gastropods. Currently Heterobranchia comprises three informal groups: the Lower Heterobranchia, the Opisthobranchia and the Pulmonata, also known as the lower heterobranchs, the opisthobranchs and the pulmonates.[1]

A shell of the marine species Bulla quoyii, which is an opisthobranch.


  • Diversity 1
  • Taxonomy 2
    • Older taxonomy 2.1
    • 2005 taxonomy 2.2
    • 2010 taxonomy 2.3
  • References 3
  • Further reading 4


The three subdivisions of this large clade are quite diverse:

  • torsion).


Older taxonomy

The families currently included in Heterobranchia have historically been placed in many different parts of the taxonomic class of gastropods. Earlier authors (such as J.E. Gray, 1840) considered Heterobranchia to consist of only marine gastropods, and conceptualized it as a borderline category, intermediate between the Opisthobranchia & Pulmonata, and all the other gastropods.[2]

The (sometimes recognized) category Heterostropha within the Heterobranchia, which includes such families as Architectonicidae, the sundial or staircase snails, is primarily characterized by a shell which has a heterostrophic protoconch, in other words the apical whorls are coiled in the opposite plane to the adult whorls. The classification of this group was revised by Ponder & Warén in 1988.[3]

According to the older taxonomy of the Gastropoda (Ponder & Lindberg, 1997) the Heterobranchia were ranked as a superorder.

2005 taxonomy

The graph of neighbor-joining phylogenetic tree shows that there is no clade-supporting pattern for the monophyly of Opisthobranchia (green) or of Pulmonata (yellow) based on datasets by Jörger et al. (2010).[4]

Heterobranchia is currently one of the main clades of gastropods. For a detailed taxonomy, see Taxonomy of the Gastropoda (Bouchet & Rocroi, 2005)#Clade Heterobranchia.

2010 taxonomy

Jörger et al. (2010)[4] have redefined major groups within the Heterobranchia: they created the new clades Euopisthobranchia and Panpulmonata.[4]

A cladogram showing phylogenic relations of Heterobranchia as proposed by Jörger et al. (2010):[4]


Lower Heterobranchia (including Acteonoidea) - Lower Heterobranchia does not form a clade in the study by Jörger et al. (2010)[4]









Cephalaspidea s.s.
















  1. ^ Bouchet P. & Rocroi J.-P. (Ed.); Frýda J., Hausdorf B., Ponder W., Valdes A. & Warén A. 2005. Classification and nomenclator of gastropod families. Malacologia: International Journal of Malacology, 47(1-2). ConchBooks: Hackenheim, Germany. ISBN 3-925919-72-4. Issn = 0076-2997. 397 pp.
  2. ^ Haszprunar G. (1985). "The Heterobranchia ― a new concept of the phylogeny of the higher Gastropoda". Zeitschrift für zoologische Systematik und Evolutionsforschung 23 (1): 15–37.  ISSN 0044-3808
  3. ^ Ponder, W. F. & Warén, A. (1988). "Classification of the Caenogastropoda and Heterostropha- A list of family-group names and higher taxa". Malacological review supplement 4: 288–317. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Jörger K. M., Stöger I., Kano Y., Fukuda H., Knebelsberger T., Schrödl M. (2010). "On the origin of Acochlidia and other enigmatic euthyneuran gastropods, with implications for the systematics of Heterobranchia".  

Further reading

  • Dinapoli A. (2009). Phylogeny and Evolution of the Heterobranchia (Mollusca, Gastropoda). Thesis, Frankfurt am Main, 176 pp. PDF.
  • Dinapoli A., Klussmann-Kolb A. (2010). "The long way to diversity – Phylogeny and evolution of the Heterobranchia (Mollusca: Gastropoda)".".  
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