Monthly Archives: April 2012

Berlin types

The Berlin collection (ZMB) is one of the important malacolgical sources for type material within Europe. Thanks to a SYNTHESYS grant I was able to work for two weeks in the collection. The result? A whole bunch of as yet undocumented types, supplementary to the annotated catalogue published by Frank K??hler in 2007.


Although I focussed mainly on the Odontostomidae, Placostylidae and Orthalicidae, also types from a substantial number of taxa belonging to the Bulimulidae were found.

My preliminary counts are as follows (including the ones listed by K??hler):
Amphibulimidae – 17
Bulimulidae – 151
Odontostomidae – 24
Placostylidae – 14
Orthalicidae – 37
Total for the Orthalicoidea: 243.

Compare this for instance with the listing of Neubert & Janssen (2004) for the Senckenberg collection (SMF):


If we discount the ‘Originalserien’ (which I haven’t taken into account for ZMB), both collections are about equal size.
I still have to tally the different categories, but that’s ‘food for connoisseurs’. However, neither of the two collections can rival with London (about 650 taxa represented in my listings). 

Handwritings again

Handwritings of malacologists are often the best kept secrets of natural history museums. One has to have a special interest in them and to inquire, otherwise one won’t get to see them.

Working in the Berlin museum at the moment, I asked if they had a collection of handwritings. And yes, they showed me a folder with correspondence of many malacologists and collectors. I have made a list of people relevant for Neotropical malacology (and some for the Gondwanan orthalicids).


Two of the surprises for me were letters of Menke and Philippi, but as you may see, the list is quite substantial.

Albers, J.C.; Berlin – 1850
Biolley, P.; San Jos?? – 1891
Boettger, O.; Frankfurt a.M. – 1874-1910
Bohls, J.; Hamburg – 1894
Bonnet, A.; Paris – 1909
Champion, C.; London – 1890-1898
Charpentier, J. de; Devens near Bex – 1852-1853
Cox, J.C.; Sydney – 1869-1870
Cuming, H.; London – 1864-1865
Dall, W.H.; Washington D.C. – 1897-1905
Dautzenberg, Ph.; Paris – 1928-1931
Dohrn, A.; Stettin / Berlin – 1876, 1901
Dunker, W.; Cassel / Marburg – 1901-1904
Ernst, A.; Caracas – 1871
Eyerdam, W.; Seattle – 1930
Fulton, H.C.; London – 1909
G??ldi, E.A.; Rio de Janeiro – 1888-1889
Gundlach, J.; Habana – 1874-1881
Haas, F.; Heidelberg – 1909
Hedley, C.; Sydney – 1906
Hidalgo, J.G.; Madrid -1913
Ihering, H. von; S??o Paulo – 1897-1898
Iredale, T.; London – 1914
Kobelt, W.; Schwanheim – 1892-1912
Martens, E. von; Berlin – 1858-1899
Menke, K.Th.; Pyrmont – 1843, 1853
Mousson, A.; Z??rich – 1860
Oberwimmer, A.; Mitterarnsdorf -1924
Odhner, N.; Stockholm – 1929
Paetel, F.; Berlin – 1855
Paravicini, E.; Basel – 1931
Pfeffer, G.; Hamburg – 1896-1931
Pfeiffer, L.; Kassel – 1841-1868
Pilsbry, H.A.; Kansas – 1910?
Pittier, H.; San Jos?? – 1891, 1893
Preston, H.B.; London – 1912
Reibisch, T.; Dresden – 1853, 1855
Robson, G.C.; London – 1828, 1830
Rolle, H.; Berlin – 1927
Schomburgk, A.; Hainan – 1882
Smith, E.A.; London – 1897-1900?
Sowerby, G.B. III; London – 1906
Strebel, H.; Hamburg – 1874, 1877
Strobel, P.; Pavia – 1871
Suter, H.; Christchurch – 1897-1914
Thiele, J.; Dresden – 1892
Troschel, H.; Bonn – 1864-1871
Vernhout, J.H.; Leiden – 1913
Wessel, C.; Hamburg – 1874

I also noticed a remarkable difference in handwritings within the lifetime of a person. E.g., the ‘young’ Strebel from 1874 and the ‘old’ one in 1909. Something one has to keep in mind when trying to link a label to a person.


Slug(gish) science (and revisited)

Today two papers are summarized, one that I missed so far to mention in this blog (Glaubrecht, 2010) and one very recent (Glaubrecht and Zorn, 2012). These papers have a lot in common: both are dealing with tropical pulmonate slugs, both have biohistorical data, and both are centering on the Museum f??r Naturkunde in Berlin (ZMB).

The families treat in both papers are the Vaginulidae, Agrolimacidae, Limacidae and Urocyclidae. The use of the Vaginulidae needs some special remark, as this is a group usually referred to by authors dealing with the Neotropics as Veronicellidae. Glaubrecht (2010: 321-322) has given arguments for both the Vaginulidae Gray, 1847 and Veronicellidae Gray, 1840 being available names for the same group. Following the ICZN rules, the name should have priority which was used by most authors, i.e. Vaginulidae.

In both papers biohistorical data are presented. Glaubrecht (2010) gives interesting information about the slug expert Heinrich Simroth (1851-1917). The recent paper by Glaubrecht and Zorn (2012) presents brief biosketches of Karl Eduard von Martens (1831-1904), Johannes Thiele (1860-1935), Carl Gottfried Semper (1832-1893), and David Friedrich Heynemann (1829-1904).

Finally, both papers give annotated type catalogues of slug species present in the ZMB collection. In total 26 types of Neotropical Vaginulid species are present in the Berlin collection. 

For those wondering why preparing annotated type catalogues is still considered useful work, I would highly recommend to read the introduction of Glaubrecht and Zorn (2012, and references therein) about taxonomic redundancy.

Glaubrecht, M., 2010. Slug(-gisch) science, or an annotated catalogue of the types of tropical vaginulid and agriolimacid pulmonates (Mollusca, Gastropoda), described by Heinrich Simroth (1851-1917), in the Natural History Museum Berlin. – Zoosystematics and Evolution 86: 315-335.
Glaubrecht, M. and Zorn, C., 2012. More slug(-gish) science: Another annotated catalogue on types of tropical pulmonate slugs (Mollusca, Gastropoda) in the collection of the Natural History Museum Berlin. – Zoosystematics and Evolution 88: 33-51.


Landsnail ecology

A recent paper by Nunes and Santos (2012) describes the different environmental factors affecting land snail populations on two hill sides at Ilha Grande, Brazil.


The abstract reads:

The distribution and abundance of terrestrial molluscs are affected by environmental factors, but data are lacking for Brazilian land snails. The aim of this study was to understand the relationship between measured environmental factors and the land-snail species composition of two hillsides covered with Atlantic Rain Forest on Ilha Grande. On each hillside, five plots located at 100 m intervals between 100 to 500 m asl were chosen. Each plot was sampled by carrying out timed searches and collecting and sorting litter samples from ten quadrats of 25 ?? 75 cm. A range of environmental data was measured for each of the quadrats in a plot. A Cluster Analysis was carried out for the richness and abundance data. The environmental variables were analysed using a Pearson Correlation Matrix and Discriminant Analysis. Our results show that the two mountains are similar in species richness, but species composition and abundance are different, probably reflecting observed differences in environmental conditions. The environmental factors associated with compositional variation between the two mountains were: atmospheric temperature, soil temperature, litter depth, and relative air humidity. Distinct luminosity and canopy closure conditions were related to the composition of the land-snail community of one hillside. 

The series of sites were only separated by a relatively low hill crest (some 100s of meters). Remarkably the altitude of the sites within each series is of great influence. In the discriminant analysis, the sites at 200-400 m at the ‘oceanic hillside’ grouped together, while at the ‘continental hillside’ the plot of 200 m forms a group on its own, and the plots 300-500 m group together. The environmental factors that seem to be influential may be summarized as follows:


This is the first time that this kind of ecological study has been undertaken with Neotropical snail populations. It would be interesting to do a similar study in the Andes, where in some places there seems to be influence from the afternoon wind blowing upward to the seaward slopes.

Nunes, G.K.M. & S.B. Santos (2012). Environmental factors affacting the distribution of land snails in the Atlantic Rain Forest of Ilha Grande, Angra dos Reis, RJ, Brazil. – Brazilian Journal of Biology 72: 79-86.

congress announcement

Two congresses that may be interesting for those (Neotropical) snail lovers who like to stay updated with scientific news.

The first one is the American Malacological Society meeting in Philadelphia, U.S.A., 16-21 June. During the last days, Philippe Bouchet and Ira Richling will organize a symposium on “Magnitude of Molluscan Diversity, the known and unknown”. For info on the AMS meeting, see

From 25-29 September, the XI ICMAM (International Congress on Medical and Applied Malacology) will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


New paper

Today a new paper was published, the second one on Orthalicoid type material in the London museum.


You can access the paper via this link:

Breure, A.S.H. & J.D. Ablett. Annotated type catalogue of the Bothriembryontidae and Odonstostomidae (Mollusca, Gastropoda, Orthalicoidea) in the Natural History Museum, London. – ZooKeys 182: 1-70.

Photo of the day (133): Bostryx

Philipp Meinecke and Nora Richter-Harder are German students with a keen interest in field biology. They have been traveling through Peru and observed an interesting phenomenon in the Rimac valley. The species under concern are both well-known (Bostryx solutus (Troschel, 1847)) and recently described (Bostryx multiconspectus Breure, 2008). The phenomenon is respectively uncoiling of the shell and a transition to a flat, carinated shell (see my blogposts d.d. 15 and 26 April 2008 on These species were found at two different localities, El Infernillo and Tambo de Viso, both in the higher part of the valley.


Above is a compilation of photographs, showing the El Infernillo locality and two morphs of B. solutus that were found by them on the nearly vertical rock walls.
Below is the locality called Tambo de Viso, equally consisting of a huge, nearly vertical rock-face. This is the type locality of B. conspectus and they were able to photograph the species here alive. This year the rainfalls in Peru were superfluous and perhaps it was thanks to it that these pictures were possible.


Photo of the day (132): Paeniscutalus

These are photos of a live Paeniscutalus crenellus (Philippi, 1867), also known under its junior synonym names Megalobulimus (Microborus) incarum Pilsbry, 1944, and Strophocheilus (Microborus) tenuis Haas, 1955. This species was hitherto classified as Thaumastus (Paeniscutalus), but in my DNA research it showed clearly to be completely separate on a basal branch in the Orthalicoidea. 

This ‘living fossil’ occurs on the western slopes of the Andes in Peru, where it has been found from Dept. La Libertad south to the southern part of Dept. Lima (Breure & Mogoll??n, 2010).

Breure, A.S.H. & V. Mogoll??n Avila, 2010. Well-known and little-known: miscellaneous notes on Peruvian Orthalicidae (Gastropoda: Stylommatophora). – Zoologische Mededelingen Leiden 84: 15-35.


Traveling in South America (5)

The last stop on my trip was Peru, where I especially followed the ‘Gringo Trail’ (Arequipa, Puno, Cuzco). In the latter area I visited some of the touristic highlights, e.g. Machu Picchu and the ‘Holy Valley’ (R??o Urubamba valley).

Some of my old localities (1975) were revisited and the same species were still abundantly present. E.g., near Pisac Bostryx spiculatus (Morelet, 1860) was observed on vertical rock-faces near the road. 


Just opposite Urubamba Bostryx tubulatus (Morelet, 1860) was observed in xerophytic vegetation, hibernating on dead twigs and on small bushes.


Near Ollantaytambo Bostryx cf. virgultorum (Morelet, 1863) was found among boulders on a slope with xerophytic vegetation, under and near stones.


Finally, near Aguascalientes a – yet unidentified – Thaumastus species was found aside a path.