Monthly Archives: September 2018

Replacement of lost types

The recent fire in the Rio de Janeiro museum has prompted the International Commission on Zoological nomenclature to look critically to the procedure it has in place since a number of decades for the replacement of lost types. This procedure for designating neotypes is often ill-understood or misinterpreted. For this reason Commissioners have made a guidance document to make the procedure more explicit. At this moment, this is an unofficial ICZN document but its distribution is stimulated.

For matters of convenience, this ICZN document is reproduced in full here:

When zoological type specimens are lost: ICZN-compliant guidelines for when and when not to designate neotypes

Version 12-ix-2018

The recent fire in the Museu Nacional in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) has resulted in the simultaneous loss of millions of irreplaceable biological and paleontological specimens, and among them were thousands of name-bearing types for nominal taxa whose names are governed by the International Code on Zoological Nomenclature (hereafter, “the Code”; ICZN 1999). The scope of the loss of type specimens is presumed to be the largest in a single event since World War II, and we grieve for this loss and the impact it will have on our colleagues around the world. Given that there are hundreds of active taxonomists whose work is affected by this event, and the desire to rebuild this museum and its collections, the Commission feels that it can offer some guidance regarding what should and should not be done with respect to the designation of neotypes, because while the Code allows for the replacement of types that have been lost or destroyed, this only is possible when certain conditions are met. We will focus on three aspects: (1) When neotypes are needed; (2) When neotypes are prohibited; and (3) Code-compliant and ethical practices for designation of neotypes. At the end of this document we append the relevant text—Article 75—of the Code.


Under Art. 75, an author should designate a neotype:

  1. (A)  ONLY when there is no existing name-bearing type (“primary type”) of the species or subspecies involved (e.g., no holotype, lectotype, syntypes, or prior neotype), and
  2. (B)  ONLY when the lack of a name-bearing type renders it impossible to objectivelyassociate a published species or subspecies name with a known form, or if the lost type had an incorrect or ambiguous type locality.

For clarification​: An author can unilaterally replace a lost primary type, but not an existing type. Existing types can only be replaced with the Commission’s approval (Art. 75.5 or Art. 75.6). Essentially, a neotype is needed only when having a specimen objectively linked to a name is essential for solving a complex zoological problem, such as the confused or doubtful identities or provenance of closely similar species.


  1. (A)  Under Art. 75.2, a neotype designation proposed simply to replace a lost type is not valid; explicit justification is required.
  2. (B)  Under Art. 75.3, there are several criteria to be met, but the primary criterion used to decide whether or not to proceed with a neotype designation is the express need for justification, as given in Art. 75.3.1; namely, that replacing a type cannot be justified if (a) it is still possible to unambiguously associate a published species or subspecies name with a known form (i.e., to reliably tell it apart from all other similar species or subspecies), and (b) its type locality does not require explicit correction or clarification (as noted above).

(C) any neotype designation that fails to fulfill any of the other requirements listed within that Article (75.3.2 through 75.3.7; see below) is NOT a valid neotype designation.

For clarification​: there are already thousands of species and subspecies for which the name-bearing type is lost, and the recent event has resulted in thousands more. However, unless the lack of a name-bearing type renders it effectively impossible to distinguish a named species or subspecies from all others similar to it, or to be certain where it lives, a taxonomist cannot validly designate a neotype for that taxon. Any manuscript or publication claiming to designate a neotype must be carefully examined, at the very least during the process of peer review (in keeping with Recommendation 75B), and this criterion must be applied stringently to prevent the dissemination and acceptance of invalid neotype designations.


  1. (A)  First and foremost, it is crucial to establish that the absence of a name-bearing type (or types) has indeed made it impossible to recognize a given species or subspecies due to ambiguities in taxonomic status or type locality, and to be able to explain the reasoning and provide evidence supporting any such claim. This is imperative in order to satisfy Art. 75.3 (and 75.3.1 in particular). Without such justification, the designation is not Code-compliant.
  2. (B)  The second step, in keeping with Appendix A of the Code (Code of Ethics), is to contact the original describer(s) of a species ​before​ attempting to designate a neotype, and to collaborate with them or to get their feedback.
  3. (C)  If the original describer(s) are deceased, then anyone who is considering designating a neotype should communicate their intention to other specialists in the taxonomic group (Recommendation 75B) and discuss any concerns they may have. Such consultations will help confirm that the type is truly lost, ensure there is a need to clarify taxonomic status or type locality, and reduce the chance that different workers designate separate neotypes independently. While the Principle of Priority does apply to neotype designations (Art. 75.4), it is far simpler for everyone if a lost type is replaced only once rather than multiple times.
  4. (D)  It is advisable for anyone who is designating a neotype to do so in a widely-read, peer-reviewed, and Code-compliant venue.
  5. (E)  Paratypes have ​no special consideration or nomenclatural standing under the Code​; while it is a general recommendation that—all other things being equal—selecting a paratype to become a neotype is preferable (Recommendation 75A), bear in mind that, in many cases, all other things are NOT equal. Unless a paratype is from the same locality as the lost holotype, and in good condition, it may NOT be the best available candidate for a neotype, given the criteria in Art. 75.3 (especially 75.3.6).
  6. (F)  Given that the explicit fulfilment of each and every subordinate portion of Art. 75.3 is mandated by the Code (below), anyone who is designating a neotype is advised to do so by listing each subordinate portion explicitly, and giving the necessary statements to satisfy them all. Very briefly: Art. 75.3.1 requires an explicit statement of ​justification​; Art. 75.3.2 requires an explicit statement of ​diagnostic characters​, or citation of such; Art. 75.3.3 requires ​unique identifying information​ associated with the neotype itself; Art. 75.3.4 requires an explicit statement of evidence​ that the original type is lost​; Art. 75.3.5 requires an explicit statement of evidence that the neotype represents ​the same species​ as the lost type it replaces; Art. 75.3.6 requires an explicit statement of evidence that the neotype came from ​as near to the original type locality as possible​; Art. 75.3.7 requires an explicit statement that the neotype is ​the property of, and deposited in, a recognized scientific or educational institution​, referred to by name, that maintains a research collection and makes it available for study. Again, violation ofany​ of these clauses invalidates the neotype designation.
  1. (G)  For clarification of Art. 75.3.6​: One may foresee cases in which a taxonomist makes a limited attempt (or no attempt at all) to locate or obtain a potential neotype from the original type locality, and publishes a work designating a neotype from a different locality (e.g., by arbitrarily selecting a paratype), whereupon someone else, with fresh material from a closer location, claims that the first neotype designation was not valid and proposes to replace it with a different neotype. This is particularly problematic if genetic work subsequently reveals that the population a neotype came from represents a different taxon from the one occurring at the original type locality. We urge taxonomists to exercise due diligence to avoid such situations (Recommendation 75A), even if it means engaging in public solicitation to locate a genuinely topotypical specimen.
  2. (H)  So long as it does not conflict with compliance to any of the preceding (especially Art. 75.3.6), we suggest that anyone who is designating a neotype should select, if possible, a specimen for which molecular data are available, or has been suitably preserved for subsequent collection of molecular data. Note that this is another reason one might wish to avoid designating a paratype as neotype.


If there is still confusion as to the proper course of action, or a desire to have the provisions of the Code set aside in a particular case, we encourage authors, reviewers, and editors to consult with the Commission in a timely manner.


Article 75. Neotypes.

75.1. ​Definition.​ A neotype is the name-bearing type of a nominal species-group taxon designated under conditions specified in this Article when no name-bearing type specimen (i.e. holotype, lectotype, syntype or prior neotype) is believed to be extant and an author considers that a name-bearing type is necessary to define the nominal

taxon objectively. The continued existence of paratypes or paralectotypes does not in itself preclude the designation of a neotype.

75.2. ​Circumstances excluded.​ A neotype is not to be designated as an end in itself, or as a matter of curatorial routine, and any such neotype designation is invalid.

Example.​ If an author designates a neotype for ​Xus albus​ Smith, a species about whose identity there is no doubt and which is not involved in any complex zoological problem at the time at which it was designated, the purported “neotype” has no name-bearing status.

75.3. ​Qualifying conditions.​ A neotype is validly designated when there is an exceptional need and only when that need is stated expressly and when the designation is published with the following particulars:

75.3.1. a statement that it is designated with the express purpose of clarifying the taxonomic status or the type locality of a nominal taxon;

75.3.2. a statement of the characters that the author regards as differentiating from other taxa the nominal species-group taxon for which the neotype is designated, or a bibliographic reference to such a statement;

75.3.3. data and description sufficient to ensure recognition of the specimen designated;

75.3.4. the author’s reasons for believing the name-bearing type specimen(s) (i.e. holotype, or lectotype, or all syntypes, or prior neotype) to be lost or destroyed, and the steps that had been taken to trace it or them;

75.3.5. evidence that the neotype is consistent with what is known of the former name-bearing type from the original description and from other sources; however, a neotype may be based on a different sex or life stage, if necessary or desirable to secure stability of nomenclature;

75.3.6. evidence that the neotype came as nearly as practicable from the original type locality [​Art. 76.1​] and, where relevant, from the same geological horizon or host species as the original name-bearing type (see also ​Article 76.3​ andRecommendation 76A.1​);

75.3.7. a statement that the neotype is, or immediately upon publication has become, the property of a recognized scientific or educational institution, cited by name, that maintains a research collection, with proper facilities for preserving name-bearing types, and that makes them accessible for study.

75.4. ​Priority.​ The first neotype designation published for a nominal species-group taxon in accordance with the provisions of this Article is valid and no subsequent designation, except one made by the Commission under the plenary power [​Art. 78.1​], has any

validity (also see ​Article 75.8​ for the status of a neotype if a former name-bearing type is rediscovered).

75.4.1. If a validly designated neotype is lost or destroyed, a new neotype, if one is designated to replace it, must satisfy the provisions of this Article.

Recommendation 75A. Choice of neotypes.​ Authors are advised to choose neotypes from any surviving paratypes or paralectotypes unless there are compelling reasons to the contrary, such as data inadequate to meet taxonomic requirements, the poor condition of the specimens, or probable mixture of taxa. All things being equal, topotypic specimens (see Glossary) from the type series should be given preference.

Recommendation 75B. Consultation with specialists.​ Before designating a neotype, an author should be satisfied that the proposed designation does not arouse serious objection from other specialists in the group in question.


Doug Yanega(lead author)
Thomas Pape
Francisco Welter-Schultes
Jun-ichi Kojima
Neal L. Evenhuis
Frank-Thorsten Krell
Mark J. Grygier
Shane T. Ahyong
Alberto Ballerio
Patrice Bouchard
Frank E. Rheindt
Dmitry A. Dmitriev
Mark S. Harvey
Gerardo Lamas
Richard L. Pyle
Bruce Halliday
Zhi-Qiang Zhang


New spiraxid species from Mexico

In a hitherto overlooked paper, a new species belonging to the Spiraxidae is described from Mexico.

The abstract reads: “A new land snail, Guillarmodia (Guillarmodia) marcelae n. sp.,
Correa-Sandoval, Barrientos-Lozano & Strenth is described from the
mountains of Sierra Los Soldados state of Tamaulipas in northeastern
Mexico. This new species differs from other regional species of
Guillarmodia by its smaller size and distinctive subsutural striations.
Habitat information of the species and geographic distribution of related
taxa are provided.”

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The new species is described from an area where the topography facilitates ecological isolation and fragmentation of habitats. For that reason it would be good if this fauna is evaluated from a conservasion viewpoint.

Correa-Sandoval, A. et al., 2017. A new species of the genus Guillarmodia (Mollusca: Gastropoda: Pulmonata: Spiraxidae) from northeastern Mexico. – Acta Zoologica Mexicana Nueva Serie, 33 (3): 450-453.

Amphibulima in Guadeloupe

In a paper recently published, Lenoble et al. report on fossil specimens of Amphibulima patula found on Guadeloupe and neighbouring islands.

Amphibulima patula (Bruguière, 1789) is a rare native terrestrial mollusc from Guadeloupe. The past distribution of this species, assessed by shells collected from archaeological sites, natural deposits or surface surveys, shows it previously had a wider distribution that extended across all the limestone islands of the Guadeloupe archipelago. Stratigraphical contexts and radiocarbon data suggest that the presence or abundance of A. patula is related to periods of wetter environmental or climatic conditions, indicating that environmental factors influenced past variations in the distribution of this species. Its limitation to rare ecological refuges in periods of dry climatic conditions, combined with human-induced landscape modifications, have led to significant reductions in the numbers of individuals of this species that is today threatened with extinction in the Guadeloupe Islands”.

Schermafbeelding 2018-09-17 om 14.46.55

This is an interesting paper as it gives for the first time detailed radiocarbon data on this species, revealing the age of the fossils. The shells shown reveal an interesting variation. The paper contains also interesting information on ecological conditions and suggesting evidence for its former wider distribution.

Lenoble, A. et al., 2018. Quartenary occurrence of the rare land snail Amphibulima patula (Bruguière, 1789) in Guadeloupe (Mollusca: Amphibulimidae): ecological and palaeoenvironmental implications. – Quartenaire, 29 (2): 121-130.

Ventania from Argentina

Pizá et al. just published a paper in which they redescribed the single Ventania species known from Argentina.

“Although the presence of apertural folds and lamellae is the most recognizable character of the Odontostomidae, some species lack them, mostly in Anctus Martens, 1860, Bahiensis Jousseaume, 1877 and Moricandia Pilsbry & Vanatta, 1898. Eudioptus avellanedae Doering, 1881 – a slender odontostomid species that lacks even the slightest trace of folds or lamellae in its shell aperture – was however transferred to Odontostomus by Pilsbry in 1902 on the basis of its building forward of the aperture-margins. It is currently placed in its own monotypic subgenus, Cyclodontina (Ventania) Parodiz, 1940, on the basis of about the same argument. In this paper we redescribe its shell morphology and, for the first time, describe the internal anatomy of the pallial complex and the reproductive and digestive systems. The presence of a spongy gland in the pallial complex; of a short penis sheath with no retractor muscle; of a bursa copulatrix duct longer than spermoviduct, and of an epiphallic gland strongly support the inclusion of this unusual species in Odontostomidae. The species is diagnosable by the sculpture of the protoconch, which is not smooth as previously described, but has waved axial ribs crossed by spiral lines in young specimens; the distinctive external and internal shape of the bursa copulatrix duct; the internal penis wall divided in three regions of different sculpture; the smooth inner wall of the vagina; the long and cylindrical epiphallus with a distal widening indicating the presence of an epiphallic gland, and the penis retractor muscle inserted in the distal end of a short flagellum. These characters support the validity of Ventania Parodiz, 1940, different from Cyclodontina Beck, 1837”.

Screen Shot 2018-09-13 at 14.21.53

The first two authors are known to have published already a series of thorough papers on Odontotomidae of Argentina. This paper follows in this line and gives convincing arguments why Ventania should be considered a separate, monotypic genus.

Pizá, J., Cazzaniga, N.J. & Ghezzi, N.S., 2018. Redescription of Ventania avellanedae (Stylommatophora: Odontostomidae), a land snail endemic to the Ventania Mountain System, Argentina. – Zoologia, 35: e17786 (11 pp.). DOI: 10.3897/zoologia.35.e17786

Physical defense strategies

Predators play of course an important role in the ecology of snails, and various groups have developed their own strategy during the evolutionary process to try to fence off their enemies. Simone just published an overview of these strategies in South American land snails in a new (privately run) digital journal, which he called ‘Malacopedia’.

Unfortunately, the website of the journal seems out of order, so I cannot provide a direct link to the paper.

In his paper he discusses apertural barriers, changes in the direction of shell growth, hyper-coiling of the shell, hyper-retraction of the animal, alterations of size, and sinistral coiling.

This review seems to me a useful start, as the topic has been treated in literature mainly regarding marine and freshwater species. The ecology, biology and life cycle aspects of land snails have received comparatively little attention, and further studies on this topic may be interesting. Especially when they are not limited to the Neotropical realm only.

Simone, L.R.L., 2018. Physical defence strategies of South American land snails. – Malacopedia, 1: 3-11.

A new Megalobulimus from Bolivia

Another single taxon paper by Simone appeared recently, describing a new Bolivian species.

Megalobulimus helicoides is a new species collected in Sucusuma village, Potosí department, Bolivia (Pulmonata, Acavoidae, Strophocheilidae). The species is mainly characterized by the deep suture, by the triangular open umbilicus, relatively small spire and proportionally narrow aperture. The sculpture of the protoconch and teleoconch, the red peristome and the deciduous periostracum indicate that the new species belong to the ‘Megalobulimus oblongus-complex’, which is uncommon in the Andinian region of South America”.

Schermafbeelding 2018-09-09 om 10.43.45

Simone, L.R.L., 2018. A new species of Megalobulimus from Potosí, Bolivia (Gastropoda, Strophocheilidae). – Strombus, 24: 1-4.

The destruction of the museum in Rio de Janeiro

During my holidays I was shocked when I learned that the Museu Nacional in Rio de Janeiro burnt down completely.


While I reported earlier that an inventory of molluscan type material had been published, this may be hardly considered as a relief. Indeed we know what has been lost, but the loss is not replaceable as such. Of course, in some cases neotypes may be selected, but that is only a practical solution in specific situations. The loss of scientific material of all kinds (besides natural history this museum also had important holdings for other disciplines) and the destruction of this historical building is a sad event for Brazil and Brazilian scientists.


New Pilsbrylia species

Earlier this year Simone published a short paper on odontostomids, presenting a mini-revision of the genus Pilsbrylia.

Pilsbrylia dalli is a new species belonging to a genus previously only known in northern Argentina (1800 km to the east) but recently discovered in Vazante region, Minas Gerais, Brazil. The new species has a diagnostic set of features: shell relatively obese; last two whorls similar in size; the apex relatively wide; the sculpture with delicate axial ribs, located close to each other (around 30 in penultimate whorl); the peristome with strong, wide labral tooth, and a tall and flattened palatal tooth. Further comparison with the other two species of the genus, P. paradoxa and P. hyltonae, is also provided, including images of their type specimens”.

Schermafbeelding 2018-09-09 om 09.16.50

Simone, L.R.L., 2018. The presence of the Argentinian genus Pilsbrylia in Brazil, with description of a new species (Gastropoda, Odontostomidae). – Journal of Conchology, 43 (1): 13-16.