Monthly Archives: December 2010

New literature

Recently several new papers have been published by colleagues, of which I here mention two related to Neotropical land snails.

The first one is a paper by Barrientos (2010) on the terrestrial malacofauna of Costa Rica. It is a review, summarizing the different aspects of our current knowledge. Up till now, 135 species are known and despite this being one of the more well-known countries, it is expected that the total number of species could rise up to 400. The percentage of endemism is 30%. There are two main reasons: a) the biology, genetics and distribution are unknown for the majority of the taxa, and ‘cryptic’ species might be unveiled once our knowledge progresses; b) the highland areas are relatively under-sampled, and new taxa of micromolluscs (especially Euconulidae) are expected here.


The second paper is summarizing our knowledge on snail and slug eating snails in Brazil. Snakes of the Dipsadidae have been regularly observed to feed on slugs (Veronicellidae spp.) and occasionaly on snails (Drymaeus interpunctus, Brabybaena similaris). This is documented by photographs, of which several not published before.
Agudo-Padr??n, I., 2010. Continental terrestrial molluscs (Gastropoda, Gymnophila & Pulmonata) components of the Brazilian snail-eating snakes (Reptilia, Serpentes, Dipsadidae) alimentary preferences: introduction to its study and preliminary available data. Noticias Malacologicas (
Barrientos, Z., 2010. Los moluscos terrestres (Mollusca: Gastropoda) de Costa Rica: clasificaci??n, distribuci??n y conservaci??n. – Revista de Biologia Tropical 58: 1165-1175.


One of my discoveries in the Dautzenberg archive was a series of folders, each containing one or two letters from correspondents of Dautzenberg. He had written the name of the person on the folder, sometimes with an explanation of the position that person held or other notes that were of interest. Here is an example of C.F. Ancey.


Ancey is one of the persons who interested me, as Wood & Gallichan (2008) already published on the types from the Ancey collection that are present in the Brussels museum. However, they didn’t figure any of these types.

Since a good portion of handwritten text may be helpful to identify labels in historical collections, I will not only document the type material but also some of these autographs that are relevant to the paper I’m currently writing. Here is the example of Ancey’s handwriting.

Other persons to be included are H. Crosse, H.C. Fulton, A. Morelet, and H.B. Preston. Furthermore, labels found in the handwriting of A. Cousin and P.H. Nyst will be figured.

Wood, H. & Gallichan, J. (2008) The new molluscan names of César-Marie-Félix Ancey including illustrated type material from the National Museum of Wales. Studies in Biodiversity and Systematics of Terrestrial Organisms from the National Museum of Wales, Biotir Reports, 3, i-vi, 1-162.

A publication but not a paper

In my last paper, I quoted an obscure paper of Whetherbee & Clench (1987) on the Hispaniolan non-marine malacofauna, published privately by the first author and posthumous for the second author. It is a paper that is very difficult to access, and I was glad that some colleagues from the Museum of Comparative Zoology in Boston provided me with a copy. Without further comments. So I made the reference, as papers privately published are rare but not suspicious a priori.

Fred Thompson kindly made me aware that I shouldn’t have referred to this publication. He wrote: “The  paper by Wetherbee & Clench does not merit citation as a publication. It was a mimeographed document. It was based on a card-file assembled by Clench over a 30 year period. It was merely a list of names and citation taken from the literature, and Clench made no attempt to edit or change any of the information in the card-file. Wetherbee found the file in the MCZ several years after Clench died. He compiled the MS verbatimfrom the card file and made no attempt to update the nomenclature nor revise any of the information in the card file. He was advised by several people not to publish the document, especially under Clench’s name, because we felt that Clench would never have endorsed the manuscript. Unfortunately, Wetherbee did “publish” the list, and he sullied Clench’s name in the process“.

It seems to be an unfortunately episode in American malacology, of which I didn’t know so far. 

A snail as art

Last weekend I was in Brussels, visiting the exhibition ‘A Story of Deception’ by the Belgian/Mexican artist Francis Al??s. One of the items that stroked me was this snail-like creature as a piece of art.


Francis Al??s lives in Mexico City, where he wanders through the streets. He then became aware that waste is recycled in different forms before it finally ends on a dumping site. He decided to create several objects, of which this snail was one, to see if he could trace them in the flea markets being held in several places in the city. Of the seven objects this snail was one of the three he could trace back.

The exhibition stays until 30 January 2011 in WIELS, Center for Contemporary Art ( Impressive and worth a visit for those readers who may pass by Brussels during this time.

Past the silence

The past two weeks it has been silent here. Not because there was nothing happening, but technicalities prevented me from posting. Sometimes a firewall is too strict to allow outgoing messages…

Actually, I have been working in the Brussels museum, on invitation of Thierry Backeljau, the current curator of malacology.


My prime interest was the type collection. According to their database, there are not more than 30 type lots for the Orthalicoidea. However, upon inspection, several appeared to be bearing manuscript names only. Others were e.g. hypotypes
(a described or figured specimen, used in publication extending or correcting the knowledge of a previously defined species; Frizzel, 1933: 653).
Of the ones with manuscript names two at least were undescribed species. However, of both of them only one specimen was present and the locality was rather vague.
Several taxa described by Nyst and supposedly present here, had not been found so far. However, Rose Sablon, the collection mamager knew there was a separate place were hypotypes were stored. Indeed, the type material IS
present 🙂

The types are stored separately in the Dautzenberg collection, which is in a separate huge room. Every type is stored in zipped bags inside transparent plastic boxes.

Apart from the types, the Dautzenberg collection is especially interesting. It is still in its original state and indexed by a huge card
index system. Also his personal library and his archive are still intact. This enabled me – with the help of Rose Sablon – to track the origin of the many specimens I found with labels “coll. Cousin”. Auguste Cousin was French, and lived for many years in Ecuador during the second half of the 19th century. He travelled the country extensively (presumably on horseback) and brought together a large collection. He published only once on his results (Cousin, 1887); it is one of the baseline studies for the Ecuadorian malacofauna. 


In the Dautzenberg archive we found an inventory of Cousin’s collection. As it appears, it was purchased by Dautzenberg in 1913; however it is not known from whom. Just as a guess, it could be G??ret, a Paris based merchant who also sold parts of the Ancey collection to Dautzenberg.
Cousin, A., 1887. Faune mamalcologique de la r??publique de l’??quateur. – Bulletin de la Soci??t?? zoologique de France 12: 187-287.
Frizzel, D.L., 1933. Terminology of types. – American Midland Naturalist 14: 637-668.