Molluscan Immunobiology: Challenges in the Anthropocene Epoch

  • Eric S. LokerEmail author
  • Christopher J. Bayne


The Mollusca, with a long and rich evolutionary history, is one of the most speciose and distinctive of the animal phyla. Among its members are some of the largest and most long-lived, intelligent, and commercially valuable invertebrate species, contributing massively to the human food supply. Some are valued for their beauty, and others are significant disease vectors. In this chapter, after first providing an overview of the diverse and often distinctive infectious agents with which molluscs must contend, we outline in broad strokes some of the major features of molluscan immune systems. Molluscs continue to enrich our broader understanding of immunology, both from a steady stream of new insights in genomic and postgenomic studies and from novel discoveries such as transmissible neoplasia, which challenge our understanding of cancer and basic processes such as allorecognition. We then discuss how the rapidly changing modern world often exposes molluscs to significant abiotic and biotic challenges—often presented in daunting combinations—that elicit complex responses and reveal the extent to which stress and immune responses are intertwined. We conclude with a discussion of aspects of molluscan immunobiology about which we need to expand our scope of knowledge if molluscs are not to suffer more than they already have in this, the world’s sixth major episode of mass extinction.


Comparative immunology Evolutionary immunology Mollusca Host–parasite interactions Conservation biology Parasites Pathogens Hemocytes 



We wish to thank Ms. Anne Rice for her superb and timely editorial assistance in compiling this manuscript. The ideas laid out in this chapter have been conceived, in large part, on account of works published by others, who are too numerous to mention individually; their papers are cited within. CJB was supported by NIH grant AI109134 and the Department of Integrative Biology at Oregon State University. ESL was supported by NIH grant AI101438 and the COBRE Center for Evolutionary and Theoretical Immunology (CETI), which is supported by NIH grant P30GM110907 from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS).


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Evolutionary and Theoretical Immunology, Museum of Southwestern Biology, Department of Biology, The University of New MexicoAlbuquerqueUSA
  2. 2.Department of Integrative Biology, Oregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA

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