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You are here: Home / Library / RBINS Staff Publications / Food-induced body pigmentation questions the taxonomic value of colour in the self-fertilizing slug Carinarion spp.

K.a Jordaens, P.a Van Riel, S.a Geenen, R.O.N.a Verhagen and T.a Backeljau (2001)

Food-induced body pigmentation questions the taxonomic value of colour in the self-fertilizing slug Carinarion spp.

Journal of Molluscan Studies, 67(2):161-167.

Body pigmentation is a popular taxonomic marker in slugs to discriminate closely related species. However, the genetic background of body pigmentation is known only for a few species, while in many others body pigmentation is influenced by age, food and/or climate. In this study, we investigated the effects of different food items on body pigmentation expression in two selfing pulmonate gastropods, Arion (Carinarion) silvaticus and Arion (Carinarion) fasciatus. Both species mainly differ in the distribution of yellow-orange granules on the body, which in A. fasciatus are concentrated in lateral bands, and in A. silvaticus are evenly scattered. Animals were raised individually under the same conditions, while they laid eggs as a consequence of selfing. This F1 generation was afterwards divided into two groups, which were fed with different food items. A diet of carrot, lettuce or paper had no effect on the distribution of the yellow-orange granules in A. silvaticus, but provoked a loss of the yellow-orange lateral bands in A. fasciatus so that externally these F1 specimens became similar to A. silvaticus. In both species, a diet of nettle resulted in a strong yellow-orange pigmentation, which often formed yellow-orange lateral bands. These results indicate that food can probably influence the 'species-specific' body pigmentation in Carinarion, and thus question the reliability of colour traits to distinguish A. silvaticus and A. fasciatus.

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