Belize land snails

A new book by Dourson et al. on the non-marine malacofauna of Belize is a peculiar case, which shows that privately publishing a book including new taxa might be a tricky case.

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The non-marine malacofauna of Mexico and Central America is seemingly well-known through the work of the late Fred G. Thompson. His checklist, of which the final version appeared in 2011, listed all the currently accepted (sub)species and synonyms known from that area. It was a major milestone after the previous works by Crosse & Fischer’s Mission au Mexique et Guatemala, …Mollusques (1870-1902) and Von Martens’ molluscan part of the Biologia Centrali-Americana (1890-1901). Thompson’s publication, listing ca. 1250 taxa for this enormous area, stated that this number possibly only reflects one third of the actual malacofauna, due to the fact that most countries have only partially been surveyed for molluscs. 

Dourson et al. have concentrated on Belize, a relatively small country which borders southern Mexico and Guatemala. During the period 2006-2016 they surveyed all the seven physiographic regions of the country. And where Thompson only listed 24 species they enumerate 158 in total, of which 17 newly described in this book, with three others recently described in journals and a further eight still not formally described. This constitutes an increase of 658% for the biodiversity of non-marine snails in this country!

The authors have set up this book in such a way that it is aimed for a broad public, both scientists and laymen. After the introductory chapter, two chapters are dealing with general information on land snails and the value of snails in ecosystems respectively. The next chapter ‘Collecting and Identifying Land Snails’ also explains the organisation of the book. Chapters 5-12 treat land snails according to their shape and size, followed by a chapter on slugs and one on freshwater snails. The final chapter is dealing with exotic snails occurring in Belize. The book is concluded by a glossary, a species list per family, a bibliography, and an index of scientific names.

The first version of this book (Dourson et al., 2018a) was unintentionally published while the authors were still updating the text on the basis of reviews they had asked to specialists. Nevertheless, the book was distributed by several commercial companies, and the new species descriptions are thus validly available according to the International Code on Zoological Nomenclature. This date was 10 January 2018; the final, ‘official’ version came out just before Christmas on 21 December (Dourson et al., 2018b). 

The ‘unofficial’ first version was based on old classifications for several families (e.g., Orthalicidae contained both Orthalicus [Orthalicidae] and Bulimulus and Drymaeus [Bulimulidae]; no distinction was being made between Urocoptidae and Epirobiidae; Subulinidae were not included in Achatinidae). The classification of Ampullariidae is not in accordance with the authoritative papers of Cowie. In June 2018, after receiving a further draft of the book, I send a long list with additional comments to the authors. Thus it is regrettable that this version was published at all. Unfortunately part of the suggested corrections were not applied (e.g., p. 11: Morlet’s crocodile should be Morelet’s crocodile; p. 26: the ‘escargot’ of the French is not Cornu aspersum but Helix pomatia; p. 227: the correct name for the species is Brachypodella speluncae (L. Pfeiffer, 1852), and the syntype figured on p. 226 is Cylindrella costulata Morelet, 1851 [Pfeiffer’s name being a replacement name for this junior homonym]). Some figures have been updated and the list of references is somewhat extended but still contains typos and flaws, while recent literature on several groups are missing.

The following new species have been described (publication date thus January 2018), with the holotypes deposited in the Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville:

Family Helicinidae: Lucidella caldwelli
(Note that since authorship has not been restricted, Caldwell is co-author of his own eponym)

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Family Bulimulidae: Drymaeus tzubi
(N.B. in this version incorrectly classified as belonging to Orthalicidae)

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Family Spiraxidae: Euglandina fosteri

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Family Spiraxidae: Pseudosubulina juancho

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Family Spiraxidae: Rectaxis breweri

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Family Achatinidae: Opeas marlini
(N.B. in this version still under the family Subulinidae)

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Family Achatinidae: Leptopeas corwinii
(N.B. in this version still under the family Subulinidae)

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Family Achatinidae: Lamellaxis matola
(N.B. in this version still under the family Subulinidae)

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Family Achatinidae: Leptinaria doddi
(N.B. in this version still under the family Subulinidae)

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Family Urocoptidae: Brachypodella levisa

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Family Thysanophoridae: Thysanophora meermani

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Family Scolodontidae: Miradiscops striatae

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Family Scolodontidae: Miradiscops youngii

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Family Scolodontidae: Miradiscops bladensis

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Family Charopidae: Rotadiscus saqui

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Family Charopidae: Chanomphalus angelae

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Family Ferussaciidae: Cecilioides dicaprio

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This book is an extremely nice contribution to our knowledge of the Central American malacofauna. It is suitable both for both the ‘serious’ malacologist and for a layman, thanks to the very accessible way the book was designed. But, as the authors communicated to me, the prime audience is the general public. The lay-out will appeal to this target group, although the silly cartoons could be missed without making the book less informative.

As far as I know, the authors are now giving workshops to people in Belize to bring this fauna more to their attention. They will also develop a laminated snail card for quick identifications in the field. All this sounds as wonderful initiatives.

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Update: The final version of the book came meanwhile available, and this post has been updated. It is unfortunate that the authors have not grasped the opportunity to correct some of the errors in Thompson’s checklist and that the classification is not up-to-date. It is clear that the first, unofficial version will become a collector’s item for bibliophiles!

References:
Dourson, D.C., Caldwell, R.S. & Dourson, J.A., 2018a. Land snails of Belize, Central America. A chronicle of remarkable diversity and function. — Goatslug Publications, Stanton, Kentucky, U.S.A. Hardcover, 338 pp. ISBN 978 0999 802304. [no longer available]

Dourson, D.C., Caldwell, R.S. & Dourson, J.A., 2018b. Land snails of Belize, Central America. A chronicle of remarkable diversity and function. — Goatslug Publications, Stanton, Kentucky, U.S.A. Softcover, 339 pp. ISBN 978 0999 802311. € 69. 

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2 thoughts on “Belize land snails

  1. Pingback: Study uncovers 135 species of land snails in Belize, including 17 new ones – ecolightenment

  2. Pingback: Study uncovers 135 species of land snails in Belize, including 17 new ones – ecolightenment

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