Radula Meaning

Next to the insects, another animal group is there called Mollusca, which contains nearly 80,000 species. Among them, Gastropoda, snails, snugs, etc., were more. An autapomorphy organ of these molluscs is Gastropoda radula. The radula appears like a toothed ribbon-like structure. It helps to carry numerous teeth which are rasping.

The odontophore's radula, a projecting component, is used to drill holes in prey or rasp food particles from a surface It is supported by the odontophore, a cartilage-like structure that is covered by rows of many tiny teeth, or denticles. To replace teeth that have worn out in the front, new parts are manufactured regularly.

What are the various types of Radula?

  • Docoglossan or Stereoglossan Radula:

There is normally one small central tooth in each row, bordered by 1–3 laterals (the outer one being prominent) and a few (3 at most) hooked marginals. The center tooth may be missing entirely. On the radular ribbon, the teeth are fastened in a rigid position.

  • Rhipidoglossan Radula:

Uncini is a big, symmetrical central tooth bordered on each side by many (typically five) lateral teeth and numerous flabellate marginals. This is already a step forward from the docoglossan state. These radulae primarily function as 'brooms,' brushing away loose microalgae.

  • Hystrichoglossan Radula:

Each row has hundreds of uniform marginal teeth that are tufted at their ends, as well as lamellate and hooked lateral teeth.

  • Taenioglossan Radula:

Each row has seven teeth: one centre tooth, one lateral, and two marginal teeth on each side. These work like rakes, scraping algae, and collecting the debris that results.

  • Ptenoglossan Radula:

Rows with a sequence of regular, sharp marginal teeth rather than a centre tooth

  • Stenoglossan or Rachiglossan Radula:

Each row may have one central tooth and one lateral tooth on each side, or no lateral teeth at all in other circumstances.

  • Toxoglossan Radula:

The venom channels (neurotoxins) and barbs on these grooved teeth are not firmly linked to the basal plate. As a result, the teeth can be individually transferred to the proboscis and propelled into the prey like a harpoon.

Structure of Radula

A typical radula consists of several bilaterally symmetrical self-similar rows of teeth rooted in the mouth cavity's floor by a radular membrane. Teeth in certain species flex with the membrane as it passes over the odontophore, while teeth in others are firmly anchored in place and move as a single unit.

Let us understand the structure of the radula. The structure of the Gastropoda radula has three layers. Namely - 

  • The ‘odontophore’, 

  • The ‘radula membrane’ and 

  • The ‘teeth’ or denticles

The odontophore helps to move and protect the radula. It looks like a ribbon and is made up of muscular material. Another thin layer that is located at the upper part of the odontophore is called the radula membrane. It is the second layer of Gastropoda radula. Along with these two layers, another layer called the teeth of denticles was available in hundreds of rows. It also has two ends - one is distal, and another one is the proximal end. Some of the teeth may want to get damaged at the distal and. Then after new teeth will start growing at the proximal end. It is a continuous process. 

Odontoblasts and ameloblasts are two cells available in the radula sac. The odontoblasts help to secret the teeth regularly, whereas the other blast helps to secrete the radular membrane.

The hyaline shield is part of the radula in many molluscs. It is attached to the top of the radula, arches back into the mouth, and acts as a starting point for the muscles that pull the radula back. This pulling back forces the food particles back into the mouth.

The radular teeth can bend in a sideways manner in most cases. The teeth of the patellogastropods, on the other hand, lost their capacity to move and became fixed.

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Radula of Snails 

Next to the insects, another animal group is there called Mollusca, which contains nearly 80,000 species. Among them, Gastropoda, snails, snugs, etc., are more. An autapomorphy organ of these molluscs is Gastropoda radula. The radula appears as a toothed ribbon-like structure. It helps to carry numerous teeth which are rasping.


Generally, the snails and slugs are also known as Gastropoda. The radula function of snails may vary in diversity because there are huge numbers of species and can be available at distinct origins. Some species of snails may be found in seas, some may be found on land, and some more may be found in freshwater.  

The herbivores may eat algae and other vegetables. On the other hand, the carnivore snails may depend upon other animals to feed themselves. There is a buccal cavity in the mouth of a snail where the radula of snails can be observed. Using the teeth of a radula, they collect food and send it to the oesophagus. The sharp teeth present in the radula of marine snails help drill holes on other animals like seashells etc and can eat the meat of other animals. While learning about the radula of snails, one can come across the radula of pila. Let's see what it is.

Radula of Pila

Pila is another species of snails. These are commonly known as apple snails. These are usually found in Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Philippines, Africa, etc. These are known as herbivore snails, usually found in fresh water like ponds, lakes, etc. They usually prefer aquatic vegetation. Similar to the other snails, the radula is an organ present in pila that helps to cut down the food using the teeth of the radula. The radula of pila present in the buccal cavity appears in brownish. The major function of this radula is to break down the food into small particles.

Radula of Mollusks

In the anatomy of molluscs, the radula of mollusks performs a great function. The radula strives to feed on plants by grazing on microscopic filamentous algae. It is the only argon that helps to feed the animal, which also helps in survival. It performs all the feeding activities like scraping, cutting the food into small particles, transferring it to the oesophagus even though the identicals may be worn, and starts regrowing periodically.

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Different Types of Radula Teeth

Every organism has a radula and teeth in it in the buccal cavity. But these teeth may vary in their structure and characteristics from species to species.

  • The Central or Rachidian Teeth:

Numerous teeth are available which are sometimes the largest and sometimes the simplest in their structure.

  • Minor Lateral Teeth:

These are usually in pairs, so they are plural. These are smaller than either Central teeth or dominant teeth.

  • Major Lateral Teeth:

In contrast to the above one, these major teeth are singular and more in number and have interesting shapes than the central teeth.

  • Marginal Teeth:

The most numerous teeth among all. Also, the marginal teeth are thinner and less robust than Central teeth and major lateral teeth.

These are the different types of regular teeth present in different species. They have differences in their structure and appearance but are the same in function because the only function of radula is to break down the food and help their survival.

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FAQs on Radula

1. What are Radula teeth made from?

Chitin, a type of polysaccharide, is used to make the teeth of the radula (or biopolymer). Chitin can also be found in mollusk shells, crustacean and insect exoskeletons, and cephalopod beaks. The radula teeth, in particular, can vary significantly in size, shape, and several cusps on each of the different kinds (shown for Tryonia sp.), which include centrals, laterals, inner marginals, and outer marginals. These are important characteristics to consider when distinguishing between species. Furthermore, these characteristics reflect a gastropod's diet, though some gastropods have evolved to lose their radula entirely.

2. How many chambers of the heart do molluscs have?

Molluscs have an open circulatory system and have a single blood flow where blood only flows in vessels for part of the time.  Molluscs have a three-chambered heart with two atria and one ventricle.  The heart pumps oxygenated blood from the lungs and into the gills.

3. Do gastropods have a radula?

Except for bivalves, all molluscan groups have a firm odontophore at the anterior end of the digestive tract, including gastropods. In general, this organ supports a broad ribbon (radula) covered with hundreds to thousands of "teeth" (denticles). When muscles extrude the radula from the mouth, spread it out, and glide it along the odontophore, food particles and debris enter the oesophagus. Despite being attached at both ends, the radula grows continuously throughout the gastropod's life, with new rows of denticles forming posteriorly to replace worn denticles cast off at the anterior end.

4. What is Radula's formula?

Radula can be expressed in formula as: 3 + D + 2 + R + 2 + D + 3

The center tooth, also known as the rachis tooth, is denoted by the letter R. If the outer lateral tooth is dominant, the lateral teeth on either side are represented by a certain number or D. The marginal teeth are identified by a number or, in the event of extremely big numbers, by the infinity symbol ∞

Three marginal teeth, one dominant lateral tooth, two lateral teeth, and one central tooth are represented by the formula.

5. Describe the Formula For Radula.

Several scientists had suggested a palindromic formula to describe the nature of the teeth of radula present in one row. The palindromic formula given by scientists is,

3 + D + 2 + R + 2 + D + 3.


R is the Rachidian tooth.

D is the symbol used to represent the lateral teeth.

Inner numbers of D are minor lateral teeth.

Outer numbers of D are major lateral teeth.

The formula helps to understand 3 marginal teeth, 1 dominant lateral tooth, 2 lateral teeth, and one central tooth. If the marginal teeth are hues in number and can't be determined, we use the symbol infinity ∞ to denote the marginal teeth. Hence the formula might be the same, but the value may change for various species based on the structure and the number of teeth present in its radula.

6. What is Gastropod Radula? Explain its Types.

The category of gastropods has various species. In gastropods, the radula has different structures and shapes in different species. Generally, the function of radula is to break down the food into tiny particles and then transfer it to the digestive system of the insects. This helps in giving nutrients to the body of the insect and helps its survival. In these gastropods, we have seven different types. They are listed below- 

  • Stenoglossan (Rachiglossan)

  • Taenioglossan

  • Toxxoglossan

  • Sacoglossan (Stereoglossan)

  • Hystrichoglossan

  • Ptenoglossan

  • Rhiphidoglossan

Besides these seven types of gastropods, another species of gastropod is also available. But it is distinct from all these seven types. This is nothing but, Careoradula perelegans. This doesn't contain any regular teeth. It has another anatomy for the feeding process.

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