Black Katy Chiton

Associated Smithsonian Expert: M. G. (Jerry) Harasewych, Ph.D.

Dr. Jerry Harasewych showing drawer of marine mollusk specimens

Photo by Smithsonian Institution

Dr. Jerry Harasewych is a Research Zoologist and Curator of Marine Mollusks at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. His research specialties include the systematics and biogeography of several groups of deep-sea snails. He conducts field work using a variety of research submersibles to sample and observe these animals. Other areas of research include Antarctic mollusks and a highly diverse group of land snails endemic to the tropical western Atlantic. Harasewych first started to work with shells at the age of ten, when he began as a volunteer at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. He was an active member and officer of the Philadelphia Shell Club while pursuing an undergraduate degree in chemistry at Drexel University in Philadelphia. After completing his doctorate in Biological Oceanography at the College of Marine Studies of the University of Delaware, he moved to the D.C. area and became a Research Fellow in Clinical Neurogenetics at the National Institute of Mental Health. Harasewych joined the Smithsonian in 1985.

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This image was obtained from the Smithsonian Institution. The image or its contents may be protected by international copyright laws.

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Snail (Indrella ampulla) defecating
Courtesy of Vipin Baliga, via Flickr: EOL Images, CC-BY-NC-SA


About Mollusks (Phylum Mollusca): Feeding

Most mollusks have a "radula", a ribbon made of chitin with rows of teeth (denticles). The radula is always used to feed, but how it is used varies widely. Radulas are specialized to the diets of mollusks, which range from fully carnivorous to entirely herbivorous. The radula may be used to filter, scrape, crush, cut, or stab, depending what food is eaten. Predatory murexes use the radula to drill holes into other mollusks, whereas limpets use it to scrape algae off rocks. The shape of the radula and denticles can be used to figure out what mollusk it came from. Nudibranchs that feed on corals have long, skinny denticles for scraping the thin layer of flesh off the coral skeleton. Queen conchs have a comb-like radula with thousands of tiny denticles for filtering small food from the water. Regardless, as denticles wear away, they are continuously replaced from top to bottom.