Heterochrony, differences in the timing of developmental events between descendent species and their ancestors, is a pervasive evolutionary pattern. However, the origins of such timing changes are still not resolved. Here we show, using sequence analysis, that exposure to predator cues altered the timing of onset of several developmental events in embryos of two closely related gastropod species: Radix balthica and Radix auricularia. These timing alterations were limited to certain events and were species-specific. Compared with controls, over half (62%) of exposed R. auricularia embryos had a later onset of body flexing and an earlier occurrence of the eyes and the heart; in R. balthica, 67 per cent of exposed embryos showed a later occurrence of mantle muscle flexing and an earlier attachment to, and crawling on, the egg capsule wall. The resultant developmental sequences in treated embryos converged, and were more similar to one another than were the sequences of the controls for both species. We conclude that biotic agents can elicit altered event timing in developing gastropod embryos. These changes were species-specific, but did not occur in all individuals. Such developmental plasticity in the timing of developmental events could be an important step in generating interspecific heterochrony
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