Reproductive biology

Bivalves are usually dioecious, with eggs and sperm shed into the water column where external fertilization occurs. Some species are consecutive or simultaneous hermaphrodites, with protandry (male phase preceding female phase) most common. Internal fertilization has been recorded for a few groups (Galeommatoidea, Teredinidae), using tentacles or siphons as copulatory organs. External sexual dimorphism is evident in only a few bivalves (Carditidae, Unionoidea).

Larval development is plesiomorphically planktotrophic, with free-swimming veliger larvae that feed in the plankton for a few weeks. Some bivalves brood their larvae in the supra-branchial chamber or in specialized brood pouches, releasing late-stage veligers or direct-developed juveniles through the excurrent opening. Settlement of larvae is time-dependent but is often delayed in the absence of suitable habitat. Freshwater mussels (Unionoidea) are characterized by specialized glochidia larvae that require attachment to the gills or fins of fish to complete their life cycles. Many of these larvae have specialized hooks for attachment, and some bivalve-fish relationships are species-specific. Many unionoideans possess specialized flaps on the mantle edge that they wave in the water column to attract the attention of the required fish; some of these "lures" mimic small fish or the invertebrate prey of the fish host.

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