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The Coppois collection

Guy Coppois (at the Université Libre de Bruxelles) has for many years been interested in Galápagos snails, particularly the Naesiotus species living there. Back in the 1970s we wrote a paper on this genus together, although I never met him (all data were exchanged by snail-mail). And in the 1980s he seemed to have based his PhD on this group, although his thesis was never published and till today I haven’t seen it.

Recently some Americans discovered that material from different museums had been sent on loan to Coppois and had never been returned. For several years he is now already retired at the University and doesn’t respond on emails. Thanks to the mediation of an entomological colleague, part of the loan material had already been recovered and returned, but on his request I went yesterday to ULB to see if anything else remained to be salvaged.

The room was in complete disorder, and chaotic is a mild expression for it. Boxes, collections of empty jars, old apparatuses and computers no longer in use, and piles of papers; it was a complete mess.

The Galápagos malacofauna has been studied during recent year by Christine Parent and students. They have found that in the field species have been hard to find and likely some species may have become extinct. The material that Coppois has collected, mainly in the 1970s and 1980s, but some also from later date, has thus considerable scientific importance and should be well-kept in a professional collection.

In this context I have tried to find my way in this room and discovered in separate places parts of this collection. As a temporary measure I have put everything, as far as possible, together in one large box with a jar of alcohol preserved specimens kept separate. Between all the material I identified 4 lots from foreign museums that need to be returned; one from Senckenberg and three from the California Academy of Sciences.

This historical collection, although only some 30+ years old, is of special interest and we will make sure it will get a decent ‘home’.
To be continued…

Update: for the time being the collection will remain at ULB.

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Book review: Cossignani 2018 South American landshells

Cossignani, T., 2018. South American Landshells: 1-240. L’informatore Piceno, Ancona. ISBN 978 888 6070 35 5. Price € 120,00 net.

South America is a large continent, with thousands of land snails. Several books covering specific countries and aimed at a more general readership and checklists for some other countries do already exist (Ramirez et al., 2003; Simone, 2006; Massemin et al., 2009; Linares & Vera, 2012). Therefore the publication of Cossignani’s book seems a useful addition to the literature as no one has ventured before to cover the land snails of this continent as a whole.

The author’s foreword of this atlas, together with 2300 colour photos makes clear that these pictures are, for the greater part, from the collection in the Museo Malacologico Piceno, with additional photos from friends, collectors, traders and museums. The author states to have no claims to present scientific reviews or validation of any kind, and the work is essentially aimed at land shell collectors, although several freshwater snails and mussels are also included. The book is alphabetically ordered by country (all except Guyane, Suriname and French Guiana), and for each country species are arranged alphabetically according to genus. For each species the following data are presented: the author and year, place of origin of the specimen photographed, measurement in mm, and museum depository in case of type material. A brief bibliography and an index to species names complete the book.

Despite the author’s assertion that he “deliberately neglected those malacological areas for which there are recent and valid publications, Brazil in particular”, pages 58-114 are dedicated to this country. This is a serious duplication of Simone’s book, which offers the same information but in a better taxonomical way. In Cossignani’s book the reader is at loss to which family a species belongs, and related genera are not grouped together as the alphabetical order does not allow this. The photos are of good quality and generally show at least two different views. Often the same species is represented by several sets of photos. Although this may be useful for species with a variable morphology (e.g., colour pattern), the degree of redundancy is disturbing when several sets of similar shells are presented. 

The value of a book like this depends undoubtedly on a correct nomenclature. And although this does not necessarily mean that the latest scientific insights have to be reflected, a consistent and rather up to date taxonomy would be necessary. For some groups this seems to be correct but for others there is much doubt. I do not pretend to have knowledge of all families of South American land snails. But for those belonging to the Orthalicoidea I spotted several grave errors. E.g., on page 120 Bothriembryon reflexus is mentioned for the Chilean fauna; however, this species does not belong to this Australian genus but to Plectostylus which is treated on page 123-126. Some species are mentioned with different genera (azulensis on page 13 with Bostryx, on page 20 with Discoleus; only the latter is correct). Several species are associated with the wrong fauna (to mention only the most striking ones: Bostryx nigropileatus does not occur in Argentina but in Peru; Porphyrobaphe iostoma not in Chile but in Ecuador). Some species have outdated nomenclature (e.g., page 53 Helix culminea and Helix hygrohylaea) or are assigned to a wrong genus (e.g., Bulimulus catlowae [sic, catlowiae] from Ecuador is in fact Naesiotus quitensis). Placostylus malleatus is mentioned for the Colombian fauna, but is in fact a species from the Fijian islands. Also several typos were found in species names. Some years ago Cossignani published a similar book on African snails, for which I heard very mixed stories especially about the quality of the nomenclature. I am afraid that the author has made similar mistakes this time.

After several countries a checklist is given of all or part of the families. These lists appear partly copied from the internet, some are given without source; almost all are undated. The credibility of these lists is thus disputable. And it may be clear: the author has only treated part of the land snail fauna (e.g., 8% of the Colombian and 25% of the Peruvian terrestrial species). The title of the book remains far too ambitious! 

Despite the mentioning of museum abbreviations with photos taken from their websites (and sometimes not mentioning these abbreviation), I spotted several photos which seem to have been taken from the literature without giving credit to the original authors. The statement in the colophon that all photographs, except mentioned otherwise, have been taken by the author thus cannot be true.

This book could have filled a real gap if it would have been set up in a systematic way. And if more effort had been given to illustrate available type material (with proper credits). Now it is a garbage can full of misidentifications, wrong assignments, redundant pictures and lists of doubtful usage. But my main concern is that this book leads the target group of “land-shells collectors” too often in the wrong way. The overall impression of this book is unfortunately too bad and I cannot recommend Cossignani’s work, despite the fact that it has some useful elements.

References

Linares, E.L. & Vera, M.L., 2012. Catálogo de los moluscos continentales de Colombia. Bogotá (Instituto de Ciencias Naturales): 1-360.
Massemin, D., Lamy, D., Pointier, J.-P. & Gargominy, O., 2009. Coquillages et escargots de Guyane / Seashells and snails from French Guiana. Mèze (Biotope) / Paris (Muséum nationale d’Histoire naturelle): 1-456.
Ramirez, R., Paredes, P. & Arenas, J., 2003. Moluscos del Perú. – Revista de Biología Tropical, 51 (Supplemento 3): 225-284.
Simone, L.R.L., 2006. Land and freshwater molluscs of Brazil. São Paulo (EGB, Fapesp): 1-390.

Soon to be published: Morelet monograph

A monograph on Arthur Morelet

Those who are working with non-marine molluscs may have encountered the name of Morelet. He introduced more than 700 species names in – currently – 84 different families of land and freshwater molluscs. Who was Arthur Morelet and what has become of his huge collection?

Pierre Marie Arthur Morelet (1809-1892) was an amateur scientist who devoted himself to both shell collecting and botany. He organised several expeditions, of which those to Cuba and Central America (1846-1848) and the Azores (1857) are especially noteworthy. His contributions to malacology were thus significant and we have reconstructed his legacy with a survey of archival sources and his type material in the historical collections of several museums. 

The resulting monograph is made up of two parts. In the first part we present a bibliography, some remarks on the whereabouts of his collection, and more than 200 recovered letters (transcribed and translated) to contemporary malacologists, such as Crosse, Fischer, Baudon and Dautzenberg. His contact network has been reconstructed using data from his correspondence and his publications. This part offers an unique view into the world of malacology in the second half of the 19th century.

In the second part a bibliography of Morelet is presented, as well as all his newly introduced taxa, with detailed documentation and figures of the species. More than 80 per cent of his type material has been re-found and original figures, if they exist, have been reproduced for the remaining species. Of the taxa represented by actual shell material, more than 150 are now figured for the first time. The book has indices for both taxonomy and persons mentioned and is a must-have for anyone interested in the history of malacology and those dealing with non-marine molluscs.

The book, which has 544 pages and more than 1300 figures, is available after its launch on 23 June 2018. Thanks to financial support from Association Cernuelle (France), Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (Belgium), Natural History Museum (United Kingdom), and the Netherlands Malacological Society (Netherlands), the electronic version of the book is freely available at www.spirula.nl/andere-uitgaven/moreletEN. A printing on demand hard cover version of the book can be ordered at www.boekenbestellen.nl (search for title or ISBN) for
€ 67.50 (net price, excluding postage).

Breure, A.S.H., Audibert, C. & Ablett, J.D., 2018. Pierre Marie Arthur Morelet (1809-1892) and his contributions to Malacology. Netherlands Malacological Society, Leiden, 544 pp. 

ISBN 978-90-815230-2-8 (PDF) / 978-90-815230-0-4 (p.o.d.)

Ruminia decollata in Cordoba

Reyna & Gordillo just published a brief research note in which they report the finding of specimens of Ruminia decollata (Linnaeus, 1758) in Córdoba Province, Argentina.

According to these authors this snail is a potential host of roundworms that are common in dogs and cats, and thus may also affect susceptible humans. Moreover, this alien species may affect crops and horticultural products.

Reference:
Reyna, P. & Gordillo, S., 2018. First report of the non-native snail Rumina decollata (Linnaeus, 1758) (Subulinidae: Gastropoda) in Córdoba (Argentina): implications for biodiversity and human health. – American Malacological Bulletin, 36 (1): 150-152.

BHL is now better

The indispensable BHL is now even better: recently a ‘inside search’ button has been added, which allows the user to make a free search within the item under inspection. Read the full story here.

If you have used archive.org full text search you’ll know that the system shows the pages where your search term appears once you open the item.

The BHL interface doesn’t do that, and you have to repeat the search within the item, but when done it shows the contexts and gives page links.

Nevertheless, this will make searching for and within historical taxonomical literature much better and also save lots of time. Very nice!

Newly introduced snail

Agudo-Padrón is a frequent author of news about the southern Brazilian malacofauna. This time he published about a new introduction of a species from Asia, which he identified as Macrochlamys cf. indica (Benson, 1832).

This record was published in a new online journal from the University of El Salvador, named ‘Minerva’; a name which is already applied by at least 2 other journals and thus may be considered as a junior homonym 🙂

Reference:
Agudo-Padrón, I & Souza da Luz, J., 2018 (‘2017’). Primer record confirmado de ocurrencia de un Caracol terrestre indo-asiático en Brasil y las Américas. – Revista Minerva, El Salvador, 1: 19-27.

New Urocoptid from Hispaniola

Just released: a paper by Thomas Watters dealing with the urocoptid genus Gyraxis, and describing a new species. The abstract reads “The genus Gyraxis in Hispaniola is reviewed, currently only known from the area of the Bahía de Samaná in the Dominican Republic. It includes three taxa: Gyraxis samana (Clench, 1966), G. sericata (Pilsbry, 1903) and G. excalibur new species. The radular morphology and isolation from Cuban Gyraxis suggest they may yet require a new genus”.

Watters also, when dealing with the nomen inquirendum Cylindrella gouldiana Pfeiffer, 1853, indicated this taxon has never been figured and that Crosse subsequently mentioned the first precise locality for the species (“Région Dominicaine: rochers du Tablaso, près San Cristobal (A. Sallé)”). Watters expressed “it is not clear how he knew this”. This answer is simple: Crosse always indicated behind his localities the collector of the material, in this case Sallé. The material which Crosse saw may either have been returned to Sallé or have ended up in the Crosse collection. Both collections have been dispersed after their owner’s death, and the current depository of the material is unknown.

Reference:
Watters, G.T., 2018. The genus Gyraxis Pilsbry, 1903 (Gastropoda: Urocoptidae) from Bahía de Samaná area of the Dominican Republic. – Journal of Conchology, 43: 103-108.