Tertiary and Recent marine gastropods include in their ranks a complement of mechanically sturdy forms unknown in earlier epochs. Open coiling, planispiral coiling, and umbilici detract from shell sturdiness, and were commoner among Paleozoic and Early Mesozoic gastropods than among younger forms. Strong external sculpture, narrow elongate apertures, and apertural dentition promote resistance to crushing predation and are primarily associated with post-Jurassic mesogastropods, neogastropods, and neritaceans. The ability to remodel the interior of the shell, developed primarily in gastropods with a non-nacreous shell structure, has contributed greatly to the acquisition of these antipredatory features.
The substantial increase of snail-shell sturdiness beginning in the Early Cretaceous has accompanied, and was perhaps in response to, the evolution of powerful, relatively small, shell-destroying predators such as teleosts, stomatopods, and decapod crustaceans. A simultaneous intensification of grazing, also involving skeletal destruction, brought with it other fundamental changes in benthic community structure in the Late Mesozoic, including a trend toward infaunalization and the disappearance or environmental restriction of sessile animals which cannot reattach once they are dislodged. The rise and diversification of angiosperms and the animals dependent on them for food coincides with these and other Mesozoic events in the marine benthos and plankton.
The new predators and prey which evolved in conjunction with the Mesozoic reorganization persisted through episodes of extinction and biological crisis. Possibly, continental breakup and the wide extent of climatic belts during the Late Mesozoic contributed to the conditions favorable to the evolution of skeleton-destroying consumers. This tendency may have been exaggerated by an increase in shelled food supply resulting from the occupation of new adaptive zones by infaunal bivalves and by shell-inhabiting hermit crabs.
Marine communities have not remained in equilibrium over their entire geological history. Biotic revolutions made certain modes of life obsolete and resulted in other adaptive zones becoming newly occupied.