order of molluscs
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Pteropods are free-swimming pelagic sea snails and sea slugs. They are marine opisthobranch gastropods.

Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Mollusca
Class: Gastropoda
Subclass: Heterobranchia
Informal group: Opisthobranchia
Informal group: Pteropoda

Are they a natural group? The monophyly of Pteropoda is the subject of debate. At present, by molecular studies, the group is monophyletic.[1]

Pteropoda has two clades Thecosomata, the sea butterflies, and Gymnosomata, the sea angels. The Thecosomata have a shell, while the Gymnosomata ("naked body") do not. The two clades may or may not be sister taxa. If not, their similarity may reflect adaptation to their particular lifestyle.

All are pelagic, small, and transparent, and swim using wing-like flaps (parapodia) which protrude from their bodies.

  • Thecosomata: "sea butterflies"
  • Gymnosomata: "sea angels"

The name "sea slug" is most often applied to nudibranchs, as well as to other marine gastropods without obvious shells.[2]


  1. Klussmann-Kolb, A.; Dinapoli, A. (2006). "Systematic position of the pelagic Thecosomata and Gymnosomata within Opisthobranchia (Mollusca, Gastropoda) - revival of the Pteropoda". Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research. 44 (2): 118. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0469.2006.00351.x.
  2. Thompson T.E. 1976. Biology of opisthobranch molluscs, vol. 1. Ray Society, vol 151.