Invertebrate mucous secretions: functional alternatives to vertebrate paradigms

Symp Soc Exp Biol. 1989;43:337-66.


Invertebrates use mucus in a far broader spectrum of functions than do vertebrates. Examples include: 1. Navigation. The slime trails of grastropods often contain directional information that is used in homing, mating, and predation. 2. Defense. Many invertebrates coat themselves with slippery, distasteful mucus secretions to ward off predators. 3. Desiccation resistance. Limpets and terrestrial snails use a thin barrier of dry mucus as a mechanism for minimizing desiccation. 4. Structural support. Mucus functions as a tensile structural element in feeding nets and mating ropes. A preliminary analysis of these structures indicates that tensile stiffnesses of 10(4)-10(5) N/m2 may be common. 5. Food. The production of mucus can account for up to 80% of the total energy expenditure of some invertebrates. Mucus is often used as a food source, and in some cases is used to enhance the growth of food items. 6. Locomotion. The adhesive locomotion of gastropods is dependent on the unusual mechanical properties of pedal mucus. These properties may set limits to the size and speed of snails and slugs.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Mollusca / physiology*
  • Mucus / metabolism
  • Mucus / physiology*
  • Vertebrates / physiology