Monthly Archives: April 2013

Paris types

For the past 1.5 week I’ve been working (not to say being immersed) in the Paris museum. Quite a historical setting, in buildings across the street of Jardin des Plantes, the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle was founded in 1793.

In this building the malacological section is housed, and this is the place where Philippe Bouchet leads his team expanding the collection through many expeditions around the world (mainly marine). I had a chat with him about several things and one topic we discussed was the number and role of taxonomists. The number of taxonomists is now expanding largely outside Europe and the USA, and the role of taxonomists is undoubtedly changing within science. Permanent staff is spending its time more and more to ‘top research’ (as perceived by those who manage them or as pushed as such in publicity). Therefore the main body of taxonomic work is gradually left to volunteers and so-called ‘amateurs’. In this respect, there is not much difference between France and Holland.

The type collection is in an attic room and it looks at least quite vulnerable, despite a number of fire resistant doors dividing the space. The non-type material is in an underground building (type ‘bunker’), which is not a pleasant place to spend your day. For Neotropical land snails the place is still one of the heavens on earth, with many historical material e.g. from Férussac, Deshayes, d’Orbigny, Crosse etc. Also the unsorted remainders from 19th century expeditions are stored here, although much effort has been put to sort the material out and integrate this in the systematically arranged collection.

Most of my time I spent on the attic, working my way through the type material and taking data and photographs. More than 230 taxa recognized, considerable more than in my paper from the 1970s.
Thanks to my host Virgenie Héros who made every effort to make my mission easier.

Bulimulus introduced in South Africa

Today I received a mail from Dai Herbert (Natal Museum, Pietermaritzburg, SA), that he had found a Bulimulus species near the container terminal at Durban.

The specimens look very similar to Bulimulus sporadicus that have been found in Jacksonville, Florida, USA. Yet, their identity will be checked with sequencing. According to Dai the Durban port handles cargo from all over the world and it is difficult to trace the origin of these specimens. Anyhow, it is the first record of an alien bulimulid on the African continent.

Orthalicid snails from Trindade Island

The paper just published in Tentacle by Salvador et al. (2013a) appears to be a summary of a larger paper in the Journal of Natural History (Salvador et al., 2013b).

Land snails (stylommatophoran pulmonates, shells only) were collected on Trindade Island, 1140 km off Vitória, Brazil, by the Marion Dufresnei Expedition (MD-55) and more recently by our team. Trindade’s endemic snails are Bulimulus brunoi and Naesiotus arnaldoi (Orthalicidae), and Oxyloma beckeri and Succinea lopesi (Succineidae). As some non-native species have also been found, a taxonomic revision of the native fauna was needed. Here, the revision is focused on orthalicids, presenting updated descriptions and diagnosis. Moreover, the supposed native orthalicid Bulimulus trindadensis is deemed here to be a Subulinidae, and the new genus Vegrandinia is erected to accommodate it. Trindade’s insular environment is delicate and very susceptible to invasive species. No living specimens of these taxa, native or non-native, have been collected since before the MD-55 Expedition. However, it is still premature to assume that the introduced species have failed to establish themselves or that the native species are
now extinct. (Abstract).

The paper presents useful details on the terrestrial malacofauna, with redescriptions of all taxa and good figures. Unfortunately, no living material of these species could be obtained.

Reference:
Salvador, R.B., Cunha, C.M. & Simone, L.R.L., 2013a. The pulmonate snails of Trindade Island, Brasil. –Tentacle 21: 38-39.
Salvador, R.B., Cunha, C.M. & Simone, L.R.L., 2013b. Taxonomic revision of the orthalicid land snails (Pulmonata: Stylommatophora) from Trindade Island, Brazil. – Journal of Natural History 47: 949-961.

Phylogenetic notes on Bostryx

Recently a paper was published (Ramirez & Ramirez 2013) with phylogenetic data on Bostryx species, especially B. aguilari. The abstract reads: Bostryx is largely distributed in Andean Valleys and Lomas formations along the coast of Peru and Chile. One species, Bostryx aguilari, is restricted to Lomas formations located in the Department of Lima (Peru). The use of genetic information has become essential in phylogenetic and population studies with conservation purposes. Considering the rapid degradation of desert ecosystems, which threatens the survival of vulnerable species, the aim of this study was, first, to resolve evolutionary relationships within Bostryx and to determine the position of Bostryx within the Bulimulidae, and second, to survey the genetic diversity of Bostryx aguilari, a species considered rare. Sequences of the mitochondrial 16S rRNA and nuclear rRNA regions were obtained for 12 and 11 species of Bulimulidae, respectively, including seven species of Bostryx. Sequences of the 16S rRNA gene were obtained for 14 individuals (from four different populations) of Bostryx aguilari. Phylogenetic reconstructions were carried out using Neighbor-Joining, Maximum Parsimony, Maximum Likelihood and Bayesian Inference methods. The monophyly of Bostryx was not supported. In our results, B. solutus (type species of Bostryx) grouped only with B. aguilari, B. conspersus, B. modestus, B. scalariformis and B. sordidus, forming a monophyletic group that is strongly supported in all analyses. In case the taxonomy of Bostryx is reviewed in the future, this group should keep the generic name. Bostryx aguilariwas found to have both low genetic diversity and small population size. We recommend that conservation efforts should be increased in Lomas ecosystems to ensure the survival of B. aguilari, and a large number of other rare species restricted to Lomas.

The population genetics of B. aguilari is the most interesting part of the paper from the viewpoint of conservation biology. The malacofauna of the Lomas around Lima is at constant threat due to the expansion of the city and other human activities.

The polyphyly of Bostryx sensu lato was to be expected, as this ‘lump genus’ unites groups of different shell morphologies. The evidence for the polyphyly in this paper consists of unresolved polytomies which don’t present much of a direction for solution of this topic. Hopefully, a decent study will untangle this group of species both by in-depth morphological and molecular research.

Reference:
Ramirez, J. & Ramirez, R., 2013. Molecular evidence for the polyphyly of Bostryx (Gastropoda: Bulimulidae) and genetic diversity of Bostryx aguilari. Zoologia (Curitiba) 30: 80-87. Available at http://www.scielo.br/pdf/zool/v30n1/10.pdf.