Bulimulus as world travelers

Some Bulimulus species can act as alien species, as has been reported here extensively with introductions in Florida (B. guadalupensis, B. aff. sporadicus), Costa Rica and Ecuador (both B. guadalupensis). As recent research has shown (Breure 2016 PeerJ in press), DNA can help to reveal the likely source of origin. However, this is only possible if there is sufficient reference data available, i.e. sequences from specimens adequately identified with good locality data.


Recently, a Bulimulus species was detected on containers originating from India, Thailand, southern China and Singapore in the port of Darwin, north Australia. Initially confused with a Cerastid species, several people now agree that it is likely a Bulimulid. However, which species? There is now speculation it is a species from Brazil or Argentina, which would place it in the Bulimulus sporadicus species-complex, extending from northern Argentina (B. bonariensis), Paraguay, Bolivia into southern Brazil. This species complex is insufficiently known, its morphological variation within its distribution is ill-documented, and with only one sequence from Paraguay as reference material the hope for a quick fix of this hitch-hiking snail is in vain. So before we might be able to solve this issue, the first action is to collect living specimens throughout the distribution range and sequence them. Work for local malacologists or a student in need for an interesting and an useful topic! Any takers?

Luckily, Bulimulus species can only be a nuisance, so far I have never heard of any real damage to the local fauna and flora.

4 thoughts on “Bulimulus as world travelers

  1. Michael Shea

    This species – Bulimulus sporadicus – has been intercepted sporadically by quarantine officials here in Australia over the past 10 – 15 years or so. I initially identified it as either a cerastid, enid or bulimulid as I was a bit confused as to what it was and where it had originally come from but I am now glad that it has been positively identified. Interesting that the sculpture on its apical whorls seems quite indistinct for a bulimulid. I was always under the impression that South American bulimulids had well defined microsculpture of pits arranged in rows on the protoconch. But this does not seem to be the case with this species which also led to confusion as to what it was and from where. This species will have to be monitored closely in this country as we have a diverse fauna of native bothriembryontids in southern Australia – a sister family to the South American bulimulids. This invasive species may pose a threat through competition with native species. I have passed some specimens intercepted by the Department of Agriculture in Victoria on to Dr Frank Koehler here at the Australian Museum for DNA sequencing. Your posts have been very informative.

  2. Michael Shea

    Also Bram, I would like to share this particular post of yours on Bulimulus sporadicus on a Facebook page called Snails of Australia if that is OK with you. Just for the purpose of alerting people to this species, thanks.

    1. bramb Post author

      Dear Michael,

      Many thanks for your comments. Yes I got alerted by David Robinson (ANSP) about this material and although I never examined them this may be well this taxon. Last year I published a paper in PeerJ with some sequences from material intercepted in the USA, so no doubt this will be useful for Frank K. I will be very interested to hear his results…
      And yes of course, you may share this post as you like.



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