Monthly Archives: June 2011

New taxonomic journal

A new journal is being launched, devoted to taxonomy. As such initiatives are rare, a first impression is warranted.

The EJT Consortium, consisting of European natural history museums and botanical gardens (partim from the European program EDIT),

is proud to present the

European Journal of Taxonomy



EJT is an international, fully electronic, Open Access journal for descriptive taxonomy, in zoology, entomology, botany, and palaeontology.  Publishing in EJT is free (there are no page charges) and also access is free (there are no subscription charges). So neither authors, nor readers have to pay!

EJT-papers must be original and of a high standard both in scientific content and technical execution (language, art work,..). The scope of EJT is global; neither authorship nor the geographical region of study is restricted to Europe.

EJT publishes taxonomic contributions and revisions, monographs and opinion papers. Less comprehensive taxonomic papers (e.g. those dealing with a few species of a taxon) will be accepted for review provided their wider context and impact is both high and explained clearly.

EJT follows Creative Commons Copyright, so authors retain the copyright of their papers.



Coordinating institutional resources into a single publishing platform contributes to excellence, prevents repetition, and increases efficiency in the dissemination of taxonomic data, while providing a secure long-term platform at minimal cost.



EJT manuscripts should be submitted through the Open Journal Systems. Submit your article today on

where full Instructions to Authors are available.



The EJT consortium includes at present:

Mus??um national d???Histoire naturelle, Paris, France
National Botanic Garden of Belgium, Meise, Belgium
Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, Belgium
Natural History Museum, London, United Kingdom
Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Brussels, Belgium


There has been a debate among European Natural History Museums in EDIT during late 2009, but apparently the proponents have succeeded (although there are currently only a few of the EDIT members in the EJT consortium).  
The big plus is of course that the journal is free of charge for everyone. Sounds like having a free lunch…
Looking at the submission page, it becomes clear that they are sort of selective. Taxonomic contributions should be more than describing just a few new species. Revisions have to cover a subcontinent at least. Finally there is a cryptic sentence “Submitting a paper to EJT implies that the manuscript has not been submitted to another journal [standard condition], and that it will not be for at least 6 months after initial submission to EJT [italics added]”. Taken literally, one could have the scenario that a manuscript is being refused by EJT (for a supposedly good reason) and that it couldn’t be re-submitted to another journal during the next 6 months?? 

In total, this sounds like a good initiative, but the editorial policy being a bit restrictive this journal doesn’t seem to become my all-time favourite. However, since nothing has been published yet, let’s wait and see what comes out.


During my visit to Brussels, I devoted my time primarily to study the autographs present in the Dautzenberg archive. They are a mix of well-known and totally unknown persons, both malacologists and paleontologists. The letters and postcards are kept together in 8 bands, alphabetically arranged.


Since I only did A-G this time, I will need to return to do the rest. Some handwritings have been published in my recent paper, but there is a lot of interesting stuff for those who consider biohistory as a field that merits attention.

Pantepui explorers

Today I talked to Philippe Kok in Brussels, who is doing research on frogs from Pantepui. He collected some snails, including this small one from Apacar?? tepui, found in bromeliads.

We discussed about his observations and compared the pattern of results both for frogs and for snails. Although frogs are probably more agile than snails, the patterns found so far are remarkably similar. Strong ties between the Andes and Pantepui, but the species found on the tepuis seem relatively ‘young’. 

Another explorer (and a generalist one) is Charles Brewer, who talks about exploring in three short videos (links below). Not only about exploration in the jungle but also in other fields. “Keep on exploring, keep on discovering”. New plants (see the third video) and possibly this snail too.

Blue snails

Still wondering why a number of Drymaeus species are being blue, I received a message from Carol Ramsay sharing this link about another blue snail she had found in the UK. She thought it might have absorbed copper from the soil. 

I forwarded her message to two colleagues, Edi Gittenberger and Ton de Winter, who answered her that the species depicted was Oxychilus draparnaudi (Beck, 1837), which is known to be blue. Ton wrote “The soft parts of these snails are bluish-grey, and in some illumination this colour can appear as distinctly bleu. This has nothing to do the copper in the soil. The soft parts of land snails usually are pale, greyish or brownish, but can have bizarre colours, bright green of red, or purple, or even a combination of colours, especially in the tropics“. Today, we briefly discussed this issue over lunch, but in the end we were still wondering what is causing the colours in the snail bodies and what might be the evolutionary advantage of being blue (or whatever colour the snail may have).

An experiment with tissue sampling

New technology is finding its way to simplify the work of the field biologist. A technique developed for forensic purposes are specially prepared cards to collect and store DNA. These Whatman FTA cards were mentioned during my visit to the Natural History Museum in London last year. Now I’ve tested it with a common snail species from my own garden.


This version of the card allows four samples. In this case I decided on using all for the same species, but trying different circumstances: a) live ‘in the field’, b) live ‘in the lab’, c) fixed in alcohol 96%, and d) drowning the snail for 24h and fixation in alcohol 70%. The card is here photographed after two of the four sample fields (black circles) had been used.

Here is how I took the sample ‘in the field’:

After bringing the snail to the lab, I let it walk in a petri dish and cut off the tail. Although this may sounds awful, the snail contracts but soon continue to walk as if nothing had happened.

A second slice – this time alongside the tail – was made for fixation in pure alcohol. The fourth sample was taken when the snail was kept in tapwater for 24 hours (a method commonly applied to prepare the snails for dissection, although drowning is usually limited to overnight hours), followed by fixation in diluted alcohol (70%). The time between fixation in alcohol and pressing the tissue sample onto the FTA card was 1 hour and 3 days respectively.

Finally I sent the FTA card to the molecular lab for barcoding. On my request they applied the standard procedure but stopped after the extraction. The colleagues from the lab sent me a picture of the gels.

In the red box 8 gel bands correspond to the four different situations as follows:

1,2 = in vivo tail (b)

3,4 = in vivo (a)

5,6 = 1 hr alc 96 (c)

7,8 = 24 hr tapwater + alc 70 (d)

The negative results of number 5 and 6 may be due to a mistake in the lab. Since punches are taken from the sample fields on the card, the tissue sample of the “1 hr alc 96” field seems to have been missed.

The conclusion is that over all the in vivo samples scored better. This opens up useful perspectives for easier sampling during field work. It could make the life of a malacologist a bit more cheerful… At least this ‘proof of principle’ was successful.

Thanks to Camiel, Dick and Frank for coorperation during testing.

Photo of the day (126): Epiphragmophora

This picture was made by Lucio Spiderman in Argentina, Jujuy, Yungas district, Peña Alta. The snail is probably Epiphragmophora cryptomphala Ancey, 1897. 

Wood & Gallichan (2008: 39) wrote that Ancey spelled the name as eryptomphala in the description and cryptomphala in the plate legend of the same paper. “We are unaware of any published corrections of eryptomphala, but it almost certainly an original incorrect spelling. The correct original spelling should be fixed by the First Reviser if this has not already been achieved”.
The revision by Cuezzo (2006) did not mention the spelling difference in the original publication, but she uses the name E. cryptomphala.

There are two other species which may be confused with E. cryptomphala: E. trigrammephora d’Orbigny, 1835 and E. walshi Cuezzo, 2006. Cuezzo (2006: 132) writes “Parodiz (1957) and Fernández (1973) considered E. cryptomphala to be a subspecies of E. trigrammephora. However, the main differences between E. cryptomphala and E. trigrammephora are found in both the shell and genitalia. In E. cryptomphalathe shell umbilicus is completely overlapped or fused with the columelar side ofthe peristome. The shape of the aperture is not as constant as in E. trigrammephorabeing subquadrangular to subovoidal, while in E. trigrammephora, all shells examined have a subquadrangular aperture.”. And “Epiphragmophora cryptomphala is similar to E. walshi n. sp. in that both have three peripheral bands in the shell. Also, both species live in Salta Province and are typical from xerophilic environments. Epiphragmophora cryptomphala differs from E. walshi n. sp. in the umbilicus that is narrower in E. walshi n. sp. and not overlapped by peristomal basal fold. Epiphragmophora walshi n. sp. is smaller in shell diameter than E. cryptomphala. Differences in the genitalia are mainly in the shape of mucous glands, insertion of their efferent ducts and shape and length of dart sac”.
The differences are thus subtle and as usually an expert eye may give a different opinion. The following picture are copied from Cuezzo (2006: Fig. 5D E. trigrammephora, Fig. 2A E. cryptomphala, Fig. 7C E. walshi; note that the scale bar does not apply to all three figures).

Thanks Lucio for sharing this photograph.

Cuezzo, M.G., 2006. Systematic revision and cladistic analysis of Epiphragmophora Doering from Argentina and southern Bolivia (Gastropoda, Stylommatophora: Xanthonychidae). – Malacologia 49: 121-188.
Wood, H. & Gallichan, J., 2008. The new molluscan names of César-Marie-Felix Ancey including illustrated type material from the National Museum of Wales. Biotir Reports (Cardiff) 3: i-vi, 1-162.



Predation on snails by lizards

Gerard van Buurt sent me some herpetological literature on the foraging of the Puerto Rican Ground Lizard, Ameiva exsul. Lewis (1989) studied the diet selection of this lizard and found that snails made up 17% of the total preys that were identified by diet analysis of this species. Both Subulina octona and Bulimulus guadalupensis (which are common species on Puerto Rico) equally counted for 7% of the preys. Compared to their occurrence in the habitat, snails were overrepresented in the identified preys.


This literature search was triggered by observations on Cura??ao, where Bulimulus guadalupensis is occurring in some gardens in Willemstad. The local lizard Cnemidophorus murinus has been seen catching this snail. 

However, the Bulimulus seem to thrive only in gardens where lizards are infrequent. Dogs (especially large dogs) of the garden owners are probably the ‘hidden protectors’ of these snails, as they chase the lizards away and thus create possibilities for the snails to survive.
Lewis, A.R., 1989. Diet selection and depression of prey abundance by an intensively foraging lizard. – Journal of Herpetology 23: 164-170.

Volcanos and snails

The CLAMA congress is going on these days in Puerto Madryn, Argentina. I hope it is as crowded as I know it was before. Unfortunately I didn’t have the financial sources to make this trip, although my intention was to attend the congress. Last year I did some initial work together with Gabriela Cuezzo organizing the symposium on non-marine snails. Perhaps more on that later.

Despite the attraction of the program of CLAMA, it is inevitable that the congress will be suffering from the recent eruption of the Puyehue volcano in Chile. The following picture is from Bariloche, a place that I visited during the Southern Connection Congress early last year and so for me it is just more than a picture.


While Puerto Madryn (inside red circle) lies ESE of Bariloche, it is probably just outside the ash cloud as may be seen on this NASA picture.


However, participants will have had a hard time to reach the place due to closure of airports in Argentina. One of the participants wrote me last Saturday that he was unsure to reach Buenos Aires by plane; but if he would succeed, he had to go 20 hours by bus from BA to Puerto Madryn. My guess is that the congress will be less crowded than usual.

But there may be another malacological effect too. If you look again at the picture of the street in Bariloche, you will see that the ash layer is quite thick. Imagine as a snail to be covered by – let’s say – 30 cm of ash. Inevitably this will lead to some local or even regional extinctions. After the 2008 eruption (see also figure 1 for distribution of the ash deposition) this is another blow for the Patagonian malacofauna. But perhaps a blessing in disguise for a Neotropical malacologist to do some research on the effects of volcano eruptions on the regional malacofauna?