Recently I received a copy of a paper on Cuban terrestrial snails by Maceira et al. (2011). It had been published in the journal ‘Gaia’, of which I had frankly not heard before. The paper gives an overview of the history of Cuban malacology, which now is by far the best studied place in the Neotropics related to malacohistory. The paper is in Spanish, but with an English abstract.
The land mollusc fauna, in Cuba, is represented by the subclass Prosobranchiata (476 species, 52 genera, 6 families) and the subclass Pulmonata (922 species, 103 genera, 27 families). In the present paper we rebuilt the history of Cuban Malacology during the period encompassed from January 4th, 1839 until May, 2010, with spot citations corresponding to 1684, 1774, 1780 and 1786, all of which summarizing 171 years of research regarding this branch of Science. Along centuries XVII and XVIII, a few Cuban species were discovered, all of them erroneously attributed to Italy and China. On the XIX century 132 new Cuban species were described as new to Science, also in this period it was published “Contribución a la fauna malacológica cubana”, the first catalog of Cuban mollusks written by Rafael Arango y Molina. On the 20th century, golden age to Cuban Malacology, they published some of the most important work monographs on Cuban mollusks of all times. A list of outstanding contributors´ names from 1900 to 1950 is the following: A. A. Welch, Abelardo Moreno, Carlos de la Torre, Carlos Guillermo Aguayo, Charles Ramsdem de la Torre, Henry A. Pilsby, Hortensia Sarasúa, J. Natenson, John Henderson, Luis Howel Rivero, L. Pequeño, M. K. Jacobson, M. Sánchez Roig, Miguel L. Jaume, Oscar Alcalde Ledón, Paul Bartsch, R. García Castañeda, R. P. Guitart, Víctor J. Rodríguez y William J. Clench. On the second half of the Century a new approach began to be made regarding the research goals and questions concerning this group of animals, also a new set of biologists´ names can be cited as most remarkable contributors to this subject: Alejandro Fernández Velásquez Alina Lomba, Antonio Mijail Pérez, Bernardo Reyes Tur, David Maceira, José Fernández Milera, Liana Bidart, José Espinosa, Jesús Ortea, Miguel Aangel Alfonso, Pastor Alayo Dalmau, R. Tadeo Pérez, Raúl Fernández Garcés and Vicente Berovides. It was found that the Isle of Youth has 75 infrageneric taxa. The most important higher taxa are Annulariidae with 18 species, Urocoptidae with 9 and Helicinidae gathering 8 species. Cuba exceeds to Jamaica in 835 species in total, 831 endemic species, 206 species of non pulmonated terrestrial mollusks and 678 of pulmonated. Cuba exceeds 847 species to La Española, 60 genera and 6 families, 224 species of terrestrial mollusks and 624 of Stylommatophora. In terrestrial pulmonated molluscs for Puerto Rico are recognized 150 species. The larger families were Subulinidae which has 12 species and 3 genera in Cuba than in Puerto Rico; Xanthonychidae with 48 species and 6 genera more in Cuba and Camaenidae 8 species more in Cuba and an equal number of genera in both islands.
The paper also gives a bibliography on the subject, and is therefore highly redundant with Breure & González (2010).
This paper put me on track of another one (Lauranzon et al., 2011), on the type material in the historical collections of Museo Historia Natural ‘Tomas Romay’, and Museo ‘Jorge Ramon Cuevas’. Both museums are localted in Santiago de Cuba resp. Baconao. In total 434 type specimens were recorded, belonging to the families Annularidae, Cerionidae, Megalomastomidae, Helicinidae, Orthalicidae and Urocoptidae. The material originated from the collections of Cleto Sanchez Falcon and Miguel L. Jaume.
This is an important contribution as it documents that these type species are still being preserved. Given the difficult circumstances in Cuba this is not obvious at all. The paper is, however, very concise and lacks important data which would be needed for further research. Besides the number of specimens and the locality and label information, no other useful data are presented and illustrations are totally absent. Nevertheless, in science all tiny steps help to make progress.
The third paper appeared in the same journal, Novitates Caribaea, which is annually issued by the Museo Historia Natural, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. It deals with two Cuban species and presents ecological data. The abstract reads:
The finding of individuals from the population of Cerion politum maisianum Pilsbry, 1902, cohabiting with individuals of Polymita brocheri (Gutiérrez, 1864) in one zone belonged to Paso de los Azules at Punta de Maisí, Guantánamo, after a research that was made in the area, it shows us the state that these species actually are. According to the proposal and applied scales P. brocheri and C. politum maisianum, both turned out Very abundant. The preferences on different substrates of these species are given too, finding the majority of the examples of P. brocheri at one height ≥ 0.50m and C. politum maisianum examples at one height < 0.25m, condition that makes possible its coexistence.
Breure, A.S.H. & González, A. Guillén, 2010. Bibliography of Cuban terrestrial Mollusca, including related and biohistorical papers on Cuban malacology. Netherlands Centre for Biodiversity Naturalis, Leiden, Netherlands. 62 pp.
Lauranzon, B., Maceira, D. & Moran, M., 2011. Material tipo depositado en las collecciones malacologicas historicas “Cleto Sanchez Falcon” y “M.L. Jaume” en Santiago de Cuba, Cuba. – Novitates Caribaea 4: 34-44.
Maceira, D., Espinosa, J. & Pérez, A.M., 2011. Historia de la malacologia terrestre cubana, 1839-2010. – Gaia 12: 1-48.
Suarez, A. & Fernandez, A., 2012. Subnicho estructural y densidad poblacional de Cerion politum maisianum y Polymita brocheri en Paso de los Azules, Maisi, Cuba. – Novatitates Caribaea 5: 66-72.