Tag Archives: belize

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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New Carychium species

Recently Jochum et al. published on Carychium species from the Nearctic and Neotropical regions, i.e. southeastern U.S.A., Belize and Panama. This add substantially to the known distribution of this genus in Central America.

The abstract reads: “Three new species of the genus Carychium O.F. Müller, 1773, Carychium hardiei Jochum & Weigand, sp. n., Carychium belizeense Jochum & Weigand, sp. n. and Carychium zarzaaeJochum & Weigand, sp. n. are described from the Southeastern United States, Belize and Panama, respectively. In two consecutive molecular phylogenetic studies of worldwide members of Carychiidae, the North and Central American morphospecies Carychiummexicanum Pilsbry, 1891 and Carychium costaricanum E. von Martens, 1898 were found to consist of several evolutionary lineages. Although the related lineages were found to be molecularly distinct from the two nominal species, the consequential morphological and taxonomic assessment of these lineages is still lacking. In the present paper, the shells of these uncovered Carychium lineages are assessed by comparing them with those of related species, using computer tomography for the first time for this genus. The interior diagnostic characters are emphasized, such as columellar configuration in conjunction with the columellar lamella and their relationship in context of the entire shell. These taxa are morphologically described and formally assigned their own names”.

They used micro-CT scanning to make the inner shell structures visible, which is an excellent and non-destructive way of doing.

Reference:
Jochum, A. et al., 2017. Three new species of Carychium O.F. Müller, 1773 from the Southeastern USA, Belize and Panama are described using computer tomography (CT) (Eupulmonata, Ellobioidea, Carychiidae). – ZooKeys, 675: 97-127.
[open access: https://zookeys.pensoft.net/article/12453/]

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.