The molluscs are noted particularly for their construction of an infinite variety of calcareous shells encasing the body and for the structural modifications that have taken place in the soft parts known as the foot and the mantle. These modifications are associated with the method of locomotion and capture of food.
Class Amphineura. The chitons are all flat, benthic animals creeping with the aid of a broad, flat foot. There are about 630 species, all marine.
Class Scaphopoda. Tusk shells live in the bottom mud from shallow water to depths of over 5000 m. All 200 known species are marine.
Class Gastropoda. In most types there is a spiral shell, and the foot is used in creeping. In this and the preceding classes a rasplike radula is a characteristic food-gathering organ. Some gastropods are holoplanktonic and may be without shells. These are the marine pteropods and heteropods (about 90 species of each) with the foot modified for swimming (fig. 228d,f). The latter are especially characteristic of the oceanic waters of the lower latitudes. There are about 49,000 species in the class, mostly marine.
Class Pelecypoda. The clams, oysters, and mussels have a hatchet-shaped foot which in many is used for digging. All are benthic, usually sessile or burrowing in mud, rock, or wood. The soft parts are enclosed within hinged shells and the food is conveyed to the mouth by means of ciliary action setting up water currents, sometimes through long siphons. There are about 11,000 species, of which about four fifths are marine.
Class Cephalopoda. In the squids, devilfish, and so forth, the foot is divided to form arms used in capture of prey. In keeping with their active, predacious habits, the eyes are usually well developed, but blind deep-sea forms occur. In Nautilus and related forms there is a well-developed shell. Cephalopods are either benthic or pelagic, some living at great depths. The giant squid, Architeuthis princeps, having a body girth of nearly 1 m and attaining a total length of about 16 m, is the largest of all invertebrates. There are about 400 species, all marine.