Chitin is an insoluble component in the shells of several molluscan species. It is thought to play important roles, in biomineralization and shell structure. To date, however, reports are scarce and sometimes contradictory, and suffer from methodological problems. Only in a single cephalopod species has the chitin been identified as beta-chitin. We present data on chitin occurrence in 22 species of shell-bearing Mollusca (Conchifera) and Polyplacophora, including the first evidence for scaphopods, based on pyrolysis gas chromatography, mass spectrometry (GC-MS), and infrared spectroscopy (IR). Pyrolysis GC-MS detected chitin in every tested member of the Conchifera. IR spectroscopy before and after chitinase treatment revealed at least three distinct patterns of peak changes. The contents of the insoluble shell organics included not only chitin and proteins, but also insoluble polysaccharides, e.g., glucan. We conclude that chitin was present in the last common ancestor of the Conchifera and that its abundance in the shell matrix depends on the differentiation of the shell.
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