Tag Archives: belize

Morelet and the Neotropics

Arthur Morelet (1809-1892) was a French amateur malacologist who has contributed much to malacology (nearly 100 publications, describing more than 700 taxa). He was one of the first malacologists who personally went on expedition to the Neotropics; a trip lasting more than a year during 1846-1848 which yielded nearly 150 new species collected on Cuba, and in Mexico and Guatemala. A few of these are illustrated below (scale: 5 mm).

The advantage of collecting in an unexplored area is indeed the reward to find many species new to science. But the legend above also shows one of the problems (possibly one of the least!) which Morelet faced: there was no Zoological Record or BHL mid-19th century, so there was a chance of introducing a name already used by someone else. Nevertheless, about 2/3 of the species described by Morelet from this expedition are still bearing his author name today.

In the 19th century not every author was able to give precise type localities; often they had to rely on information given by field collectors. So another advantage of collecting your own material: you knew where it had be found. Morelet, in many cases, gave (relatively) good locality data, but still described a number of species with a (relatively) imprecise locality; like “sylvis provinciae Vera-Paz”, a huge area.

As I had come across Morelet and his material for quite some years, I decided it was time to make an in-depth study of this man and his contributions to malacology. Since much of his type material has ended up in the London museum, Jonathan Ablett was willing to join me in this effort. And after more than 200 letters of Morelet became available, Cédric Audibert (Lyon) joined in as well. Together we are busy preparing a bio-bibliography with a list of taxa, illustrated with type material of as much taxa as possible. The transcription and translation of his correspondence will make it possible for the reader to get a much better idea of the life of a malacologist during the late 19th century. Currently we have located about 80% of his type material in several European and some American museums. The remaining taxa will be illustrated with reporductions from the original figures if these are available. Since Morelet started his career as a draftsman, he always paid special attention to the illustration of his papers.

To my surprise nobody has made an attempt to reconstruct the expedition of Morelet to the Neotropics, which brought him not only to the three countries mentioned above but also in Belize. Morelet was not only gifted with a special interest in malacology, but also in history and literature; his library had many travel accounts on its shelves. As Central America was largely unexplored in the 1840s, he published a few years after his taxonomic descriptions also a travel account of his own journey, aimed to a larger public, with many details on the geography and history of the areas visited. These two books allowed me, with some close reading, to reconstruct his trip.

One of the interesting things I discovered was the description of some species from areas, e.g. from eastern Cuba, which he apparently never visited. González Guillén (2014: 147) assumed that Morelet had confused the habours where his ship landed in eastern Cuba. However, from Morelet’s travel account it is clear that he never visited eastern Cuba. He must therefore have received the material from this area, on which he based his descriptions, from another person.

Our monograph is scheduled to appear during Spring 2018 as a book published by the Netherlands Malacological Society. The figures have been taken from a preliminary study which was just published (Breure, 2017).

References:
Breure, A.S.H., 2017. Een expeditie naar de Neotropen: reconstructie van Arthur Morelet’s reis naar Centraal Amerika, 1846-1848. – Spirula, 411: 4-11.[Dutch]
González Guillén, A., 2014. Polymita, the most beautiful land snail of the world. – [Miami]: Estévez & Associates, 359 pp.

Reviews of Annulariidae

G. Thomas Watters recently had two papers out on Annulariidae. The first one (2014a) is a “preliminary review” of the Lesser Antillean species. The brief abstract reads “The Annulariidae of the Lesser Antilles, including the Virgin Islands, Isla de Vieques, and Isla Culebra, are reviewed. Eleven species are recognized in three genera. With rare exceptions, all occur in the Limestone Caribbees. One species, Parachondria basicarinatus (Pfeiffer, 1855), from St. Croix, may be extinct. All are believed to be related to Puerto Rican taxa.”

The following species are recognised: Chondropoma (Chondropoma) julieni Pfeiffer, 1866; Chondropoma (Chondropoma) pupiforme (Sowerby, 1843); Chondropoma (Chondropoma) rufilabre (Potiez & Michaud, 1838); Parachondria (Parachondria) basicarinatus (Pfeiffer, 1855); Parachondria (Parachondria) lineolatus (Lamarck, 1822); Parachondria (Parachondria) santacruzensis (Pfeiffer, 1855); Diplopoma (Diplopoma) crenulatum (Potiez & Michaud, 1838); Diplopoma (Diplopoma) decussatum (Lamarck, 1822); Diplopoma (Diplopoma) sulculosum (Pfeiffer, 1852).

Watter2014a

The second paper (2014b) presents a revision of the Central American taxa of the family. “Twenty annulariid taxa are reviewed from Central America, including three new species and one new genus. One species is regarded as an incertae sedis and two as mislabeled lots of Cuban origin. Many species are highly endemic. Although not speciose, Central America has a high diversity of conchological forms and may represent the ancestral source of annulariids
in general.” A key to the genera is also presented.

The following taxa are recognised c.q. described: Choanopomops largillierti (Pfeiffer, 1846); Halotudora gaigei (Bequaert & Clench, 1931); Halotudora gruneri (Pfeiffer, 1846); Halotudora kuesteri (Pfeiffer, 1852); Gouldipoma chiapasense (Crosse & Fischer, 1877); Gouldipoma sumichrasti (Crosse & Fischer, 1874); Gouldipoma coltrorum new species; Gouldipoma terecostatum (Thompson, 1966); Gouldipoma callipeplum (Solem, 1961); Gouldipoma chrysostiria new species; Gouldipoma thomasi (Solem, 1961); Gouldipoma trochleare (Pfeiffer, 1852); Tudorisca andrewsae (Ancey, 1886); Paradoxipoma new genus; Paradoxipoma enigmaticum new species; Diplopoma osberti (Tristram, 1861); Diplopoma rigidulum (Morelet, 1851); Parachondria cordovanus (Pfeiffer, 1857); Parachondria cordovanus (Pfeiffer, 1857); “Choanopoma” cygni Pilsbry, 1930.

Watters2014b

For all of these taxa data are given about type material, synonymy, material seen and distribution, habitat and conservation status, (re-)description, variation, comparison with other taxa, original description (translated), etymology.

These two very thorough papers are new hallmarks for this group of snails.

References:

Watters, G.T., 2014a. A preliminary review of the Annalariidae (Gastropoda: Littorinoidea) of the Lesser Antilles. – The Nautilus 128: 65–90.
Watters, G.T., 2014b. A revision of the Annulariidae of Central America (Gastropoda: Littorinoidea). – Zootaxa 3878: 301–350.

 

Review of the genus Eucalodium

Fred Thompson published recently a review of the entire genus Eucalodium Crosse & Fischer, 1868 in Archiv für Molluskenkunde. It is a paper in his style with well-written text, good figures and distribution maps.

The abstract is here copied.

Thompson2014

For three species anatomical details are also presented.

Reference:
Thompson, F.G., 2014. A review of the Mexican and Central American land snails of the genus Eucalodium Crosse & Fischer (Pulmonata: Urocoptoidea: Eucalodiidae). – Archiv für Molluskenkunde 143: 69-105.

Photo of the day (157): Drymaeus

The genus Drymaeus seems as an endless variation on the same theme. Tree snails, elongate and simple in form. Hard to differentiate often one from another.

However, one group is becoming more and more noticeable, the ‘blue’ Drymaeus that may be found in the Caribbean and Central America.

Dan Dourson kindly sent me a picture of a live specimen of Drymaeus sulphureus (Pfeiffer, 1857), which is “very bluish under normal illumination”. It was collected in Belize, Toledo District, Blue Creek Cave.

drymaeus sulfureus

 

New Eucalodium from Belize

At the end of the year, it is ‘rainy season’ for malacological papers. One from Thompson & Dourson (2013) describes a new species from Belize, Eucalodium belizensis. It is the first species of this genus reported from this country, where it was found in the Toledo District, north of San José.

The holotype is in the Florida States Museum, UF 44972.

Reference:
Thompson, F.G. & Dourson, D.C. (2013). A new land snail of the genus Eucalodium (Gastropoda: Pulmonata: Urocoptidae) from Belize. — The Nautilus 127: 153–155.

Snails and snakes

In past month’s newsletter from the Belize Foundation for Research and Environmental Education, a brief note appeared by Dan Dourson with observations on snail-eating snakes in Belize. See http://www.mynewsletterbuilder.com/email/newsletter/1411504614.

Schermafbeelding_2012-11-01_om

Although the text doesn’t say, the observations seem to have been made in captivity, feeding a snake with different preys to see which were taken and which rejected. Drymaeus species were clearly a favorable bite for the Speckled Snailsucker Sibon nebulata.
There has been quite some research on predation of snails by snakes, mostly on S.E. Asian species (see the work of Masaki Hoso, currently post-doc in Leiden). See also Aydin Orstan’s post (http://snailstales.blogspot.nl/2007/02/evolution-of-jaw-asymmetry-in-snail.html).

Harry Lee followed up on the original posting to Dourson’s observation on the Conch-L list with:
“Apparently the evolution of jaw asymmetry is convergent (synapomorphic) in the two groups [see http://naherpetology.org/pdf_files/400.pdf]. As indicated by Aydin, sinstral snails seem to enjoy a selective advantage inasmuch as they are relatively refractory to predation by “right-handed” snakes. This may well account for the coevolution of chiral reversal in snail lineages (e.g., Bradybaenidae, Camaenidae, Ariophantidae, Dyakiidae) that share their ranges with the snail-eating snakes in Asia.

Speaking of synapomorphies and coevolution, the neotropical family Bulimulidae, separate (dextral) species of which are shown in the jaws of the two Sibon nebulata figured in Dan’s report, have evolved three sinistral taxa (and I consider them independent lineages):

Drymaeus inusitatus Fulton, 1900 Costa Rica and Panama.
Drymaeus semimaculatus perversus Pilsbry, 1926, type locality Garachino Province, Panama. [nominotypical subspecies dextral]
Drymaeus tropicalis (Morelet, 1849) type locality Campeche, Mexico, but my notes indicate that David Kirsh found a specimen on the grounds of Hotel Santa Maria de Ostuma, outside of Matagalpa, Nicaragua in August, 1983.

Perhaps the same snake-snail selective forces are at play in Central America as in E, S, and SE Asia.”

Thanks are due to David Kirsh and Harry Lee to bring up this subject on the Conch-L list.

Checklist and bibliography of Mexico and Central America

Thompson published a Checklist and bibliography of land and freshwater snails of Mexico and Central America in 2008; it was published online at the website of the Florida Museum of Natural History museum.

Screen_shot_2011-10-12_at_10
Recently an updated version of this publication was published in the Bulletin of the Museum, vol. 50 (Thompson 2011). It is available here: http://bit.ly/quhmro. One of the additions are species checklists for each country and the states in Mexico.