Monthly Archives: January 2011

Alien species in South America

Alien species get more and more attention. In some countries, like at the moment in Brazil (, Lissachatina fulica is a real pest, causing public health problems, and under public debate. However, there are several other species which remain less noticed because they have less economic impact. 

Rumi et al. (2010) have made a summary of all records in literature from a number of South American countries. They found 42 species of terrestrial gastropods recorded. On the basis of museum collections, they were able to add several records for 8 species from Argentina, one from Colombia, and one from Peru. Thus, although the title of their paper focusses on Theba pisana in Argentina, it is of a much wider scope.

Rumi, A., S??nchez, J., & Ferrando, N.S., 2010. Theba pisana (M??ller, 1774) (Gastropoda, Helicidae) and other alien land molluscs species in Argentina. – Biological Invasions 12: 2985-2990.


Dangling snails – an update

Nearly two years ago ( / Snailblog 7 and 11 May 2009), I published some observations on dangling snails. This week, Mike Rutherford from the University of West Indies at Trinidad, draw my attention to some early papers on this topic. R.J.L. Guppy (1866) seems to earn the credits for the first publication about this phenomenon, when he described his Adamsiella aripensis. Tryon was the first to publish a figure, in his Monograph of American molluscs (1868), depicting a Chondropoma dentata Say, 1825 dangling on a leaf. 


All the known occurrences are related to Annulariidae and Cyclophoridae.

Many thanks Mike for helping me with the literature search!

Guppy, R.J.L., 1866. On the terrestrial and fluviatile Mollusca of Trinidad. Annals and Magazine of Natural History (3) 17: 42-56.

Tryon, G.W., 1868. Monograph of the terrestrial Mollusca of the United States (concluded). American Journal of Conchology 4: 5-22.

Check your sources

During the finalization of a long-delayed article on snails and spiders, I checked again the sources that I used for the first draft. One of these was a review paper by Nyffelder & Symondson (2001). According to this paper, “one of the earliest published reports on malacophagy involving a spider was by Johnson (1863). He reported that the large wolf spider Isohogna [= Lycosa] maderiana (Walkenaer), found in Madeira, fed on snails.”. 

When I looked up this paper, I found indeed a note on “Lycosa tarentuloides maderiana Walkenaer”, but this was on the colouration of a female specimen. The only reference in this paper to snails, was this text under the remarks of a newly described Lycosa species:


A possible clue to the source of this error may be found in the methodology section of Nyffelder & Symondson’s paper. “Several hundred reports on the feeding habits of spiders and harvestmen published in scientific journals, books, and in unpublished theses were searched for information on malacophagy. This search was based largely on the Liste des Travaux Arachnologiques (1968-1999), published by the International Society of Arachnology (formerly C.I.D.A.), Paris. An inquiry among fellow arachnologists was carried out via specialist Internet discussion groups”. 
It seems plausible that Nyffelder and Symondson have copied the statement on Johnson’s paper from the replies among their fellow arachnologists. Besides apparently not having checked their source, they also quote the reference to Johnson’s paper incorrectly and incomplete. Not only the authors have to be blamed for that, but also the editors of Ecological Entomology (an ISI ranked journal, current impact factor 1.697).

If Johnson’s paper is not the first recorded case of malacophagy by spiders, who has then to be given the credits? Based on Nyffelder & Symondson’s list it should be Carl W. Verhoeff. His 1900 paper mentions that he had observed in the field the co-occurrence of the harvestmen Ichrysopsalis helwigii with the snail Vitrina pellucida. When he placed them together in the lab, he found the next morning only a clean shell.  
Credit where credit is due.

But overall the lesson is: check your sources!


Johnson, J.Y., 1863. Description of a new species of Lycosa living in the island of Madeira; with some remarks on Lycosa tarentuloides maderiana Walkenaer. Annals and Magazine of Natural History (3) 12: 152-155.

Nyffeler, M. & W.O.C. Symondson, 2001. Spiders and harvestmen as gastropod predators. Ecological Entomology 26: 617-628.

Verhoeff, C.W., 1900. Zur Biologie von Ischryropsalis. Zoologischer Anzeiger 23: 106-107.

Photo of the day (114): Choanopoma

In a new journal that appears on-line since last year, Folia conchyliologica, I found a paper by C. Audibert on a trip to Mexico, Yucat??n where he highlighted one species: Chaonopoma (Choanopomops) largillierti (Pfeiffer, 1846).


I reproduce here part of Audibert’s figures. His full article may be found in Folio Conchyliogica 5: 4-6. The journal, focussing mainly on European snails, is available on this website:

WCMC archive now partly accessible

Today I found, in the latest issue of BionetBulletin, an announcement about the archive of the World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC). It is the biodiversity information and assessment arm of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and has published a lot of informative reports. Nearly 400 of these have been made accessible through the internet. Although some date back to the ’80s, I found some interesting reports (e.g. on cloud forests in Latin America).


You can find the full list on available reports here All reports are available in different formats.
Another WCMC initiative is a portal for biodiversity information, called A-Zareas of biodiversity importance ( This site gives a summary of the main conservation initiatives, but links to references and publications for further details.

Photo of the day (113): Drymaeus

Some other pictures, made by Adri??n Gonz??lez in Ecuador, Prov. Imbabura, Valle de Intag. It is of a Drymaeus species, probably D. fallax (Pfeiffer, 1853) or a closely related taxon, characterized by the protruding, keeled last whorl and the aperture with a ‘pinch’. This species doesn’t look like a spectacular one at all, yet I find it charming with its grey and white tones. Adri??n writes “it was found in a very common plant, locally known as ‘chilka’, with yellow flowers that we use as guide for the social spiders in the high Andean forests”.


Sign the Amazon petition!

For some time a new project is on its way to build a large dam in the Xingu river in Brazil, and to create a huge lake which will destroy another piece of Amazonian forest.

The recent election of a new president has apparently fueled the debate and has led to an action for support of a petition to the government to halt this unwise project.

The background is below and contains the link to the webpage where you can fill in your name and email address, thereby signing the petition. You will end up on a page where you can see the live stream of those who adhere the petition. Sign it and forward this to those who might support it too!

Dear friends,


Brazil’s top environmental regulator resigned last Wednesday under pressure to allow thehugely destructive Belo Monte Dam Complex, which would scar the Amazon and displace thousands of people. Protect the Amazon, its people, and its species — sign the petition to President Dilma opposing the dam and calling for energy efficiency instead:

Last Wednesday, Brazil’s top environmental regulator resigned due to pressure to license a project that experts say would be an environmental disaster: the Belo Monte Dam Complex

The Belo Monte mega-dam would carve a scar bigger than the Panama Canal into the heart of the Amazon, flooding huge tracts of rainforest and displacing thousands of indigenous people. The companies who would profit from the dam have been trying to bulldoze past environmental laws that would block it — and want to break ground within weeks. 

This week’s resignation could clear the way for a Belo Monte license–or, if enough of us raise an immediate outcry, it could mark a turning point. Let’s make this moment a defining choice for President Dilma’s new presidency: it’s time to put people and planet first. Sign the emergency petition to Dilma to stop Belo Monte —it will be delivered in Brasilia, let’s get 300,000 signatures: 

Abelardo Bayma Azevedo, who stepped down last Wednesday as President of IBAMA, is not the first resignation caused by pressure to allow Belo Monte. His predecessor, Roberto Messias, stepped down for the same reason last year. And Marina Silva left her job as Environmental Minister because of Belo Monte. 

Eletronorte, the company who will profit most from Belo Monte, is demanding that IBAMA issue the license to start construction be issued even if the project does not meet environmental standards. But in a democracy, financial interests can’t steamroll legal environmental protections — at least, not without a fight. 

Belo Monte would flood at least 400,000 acres of rainforest, affect hundreds of kilometres of the Xingu river, and displace over 40,000 people, including indigenous communities of 18 different ethnic groups who depend on the Xingu for their subsistence. It is so economically risky that the government has had to turn to public funds for most of the $16 billion investment. And the dam would be one of Brazil’s least efficient, operating at only 10% capacity for the dry months from July to October. 

The dam’s backers argue that it will supply Brazil’s growing energy needs. But a far greater, greener, and cheaper supply of energy is available: energy efficiency. A WWF study found that efficiency alone could save the equivalent of 14 Belo Monte dams by 2020. The benefits of a truly green approach would go to everyone, rather than a handful of powerful corporations. But it’s only the corporations who hire lobbyists and wield political muscle — unless enough of us, in the general public, raise our voices. 

Belo Monte’s construction could start as early as February. Brazil’s Minister of Energy and Mining, Edson Lob??o, says the next license will be approved soon — we need to stop Belo Monte before the bulldozers move in. Let???s welcome Dilma into the presidency with a massive outcry to do the right thing: stop Belo Monte!

Brazil might be the world’s best hope for progress against climate change, and for bringing North and South countries together on the most hopeful common ground. Now, that hope resides in President Dilma. By calling together for her to reject the Belo Monte dam and pursue a better path, we invite her to live up to that opportunity — and to help build a future that all of us, from the tribes along the Xingu to the grandchildren of today’s city dwellers, can be proud of. 

With hope, 

Ben, Graziela, Alice, Ricken, Rewan, and the whole team 


IBAMA President Resigns Over Belo Monte Licensing: 

PowerSwitch report by WWF-Brazil examining opportunities for energy efficiency: 

Watch fact sheet: 

Power and the Xingu: 

Brazil to build controversial Belo Monte hydroelectric dam in Amazon rainforest: 

Beckianum beckianum in eastern Cuba

Introduced species have often a negative impact on local ecosystems (Cowie, 1998). Beckianum beckianum (Pfeiffer, 1846) was previously only recorded from Havana, El Vedado and Quinta de Los Molinos; the latter is the place where the first botanical garden was established (P??rez, 1994; Franke & Fernandez, 2008).


During an inventory in eastern Cuba, this species was found in gardens in Prov. Holgu??n, Velasco (Fernandez et al., 2010). Although the authors don’t give a possible explanation for this range extension of nearly 700 km, one of the possibilities is horticultural trade (Cowie et al., 2008). Since there has been no systematic inventorying on the island it is, however, not clear if this species also occurs elsewhere on Cuba.
Cowie, R.H., 1998. Patterns of introduction of non-indegenous non-marine snails and slugs in the Hawaiian Islands. – Biodiversity and Conservation 7: 349-368.
Cowie, R.H., Hayes, K.A., Tran, C.T. & Meyer, W.M., 2008. The horticultural industry as a vector of alien snails and slugs: widespread invasions in Hawaii. – International Journal of Pest Management 54: 267-276.
Fern??ndez, A., Franke, S. & Gonz??lez, P., 2010. Primer registro de Beckianum beckianum (Gastropoda: Subulinidae) para la Regi??n Centro Oriental de Cuba. – Cocuyo 18: 35-37.
Franke, S. & Fern??ndez, A., 2008. Beckianum beckianum (Gastropoda: Subulinidae): new records from Havana, Cuba – Cocuyo 17: 57.
P??rez, M., 1994. Primer registro de Beckianum beckianum (Pulmonata: Subulinidae) para Cuba. – Revista Biologia Tropical 41: 915-916.

Lissachatina spreading in Sao Paulo state

Lissachatina fulica (Bowdich, 1822) is a known pest in South America (see my old blogposts, tagged Achatina) and has spread over Brazil during the last decades. Ohlweiler et al. (2010) have studied this species in the State of Sao Paulo. This parasitological study explores the number of infected populations. Compared to three years ago (Thiengo et al., 2007), the number of counties within the State of Sao Paulo where L. fulica is recorded has grown from 69 to 105. Infected populations were found in six cities. The recommendation is made of putting an epidemiological monitoring system as prevention for medical and veterinary risks.

This study highlights again the potential risk of this snail as host for nematodes, in this case in a densely populated and economic important area of Brazil.

Ohlweiler, F.P., Guimaraes, M.C. de Almeida, Takahasi, F.Y. & Eduardo, J.M., 2010. Current distribution of Achatina fulica, in the State of Sao Paulo including records of Aelurostrongylus abstrusus (Nematoda) larvae infestation. – Revista do Instituto de Medicina Tropical de Sao Paulo 52 (4): 211-214.
Thiengo, S.C., Faraco, F.A., Salgado, N.C., Cowie, R.H. & Fernandez, M.A., 2007. Rapid spread of an invasive snail in South America: the giant African snail, Achatina fulica, in Brazil. – Biological Invasions 9: 693-702.