Venomous marine snails (superfamily Conoidea) are a remarkably biodiverse marine invertebrate lineage (featuring more than 10,000 species). Conoideans use complex venoms (up to 100 different components for each species) to capture prey and for other biotic interactions. Molecular phylogeny and venom peptide characterization provide an unusual multidisciplinary view of conoidean biodiversity at several taxonomic levels. Venom peptides diverge between species at an unprecedented rate through hypermutation within gene families. Clade divergence within a genus occurs without recruiting new gene families when a saltatory event, such as colonization of new prey types (e.g., fish), leads to a new radiation. Divergence between genera in the same family involves substantial divergence in gene families. In the superfamily Conoidea, the family groups recruited distinct sets of different venom gene superfamilies. The associated morphological, behavioral, and prey-preference changes that accompany these molecular changes are unknown for most conoidean lineages, except for one genus, , for which many associated phenotypic changes have been documented.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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