Tag Archives: cuba

Pinning down Tenuistemma

Under this (beginning of the) title, Uit de Weerd & Fernández has just made available a paper on the distribution and relationships of an Urocopitid species from eastern Cuba.

We report an extraordinary case of local and extreme shell-morphological differentiation within a group of otherwise relatively uniform eastern Cuban land snails. Analyses of multi-copy nuclear (ITS2) and of mitochondrial (COI) DNA sequences congruently place the ‘genus’ Tenuistemma, occurring monotypically on the Yunque de Baracoa mountain in eastern Cuba, within the more wide-spread species Pleurostemma perplicata from adjacent lower areas. This result is in sharp contrast with patterns of variation in supposedly diagnostic shell-morphological characters, namely (1) differences in both shell form and shell sculpture between Tenuistemma and P. perplicata, (2) the shell- morphological coherence of paraphyletic P. perplicata and (3) the resemblance between P. perplicata and phylogenetically and geographically more distant species placed in Pleurostemma. We conclude that Tenuistemma evolved from P. perplicata on the Yunque de Baracoa, a process that probably started between 0.01 and 1.42 million years ago. The remarkable set of shell features distinguishing Tenuistemma from P. perplicata probably evolved as a result of unique local selection pressures, possibly affecting multiple characters linked in shell development. This study provides a basis for further research into the evolutionary processes behind this remarkable morphological transition. To render the genus Pleurostemma monophyletic, we propose to transfer P. perplicata to the genus Tenuistemma”.

This research is interesting as it hypothesises on the local evolution of snails under different factors. As such there is a link to research on carinated species, of which a paper on Peruvian Bostryx is currently being prepared.

Uit de Weerd, D.R. & Fernández V., A., 2017. Pinning down Tenuistemma (Pulmonata: Urocoptidae): local evolution of an extreme shell type. – Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, XX: 1-12. DOI: 10.1093/biolinnean/blx041

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).

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.

Two new Urocoptidae from Cuba

Herrera-Uria et al. (2016) described two new species from Isla de la Juventud, Cuba: Cochlodinella pinera and C. pirata. This is the first record of this genus for the island. Besides descriptions also photographs of living material is presented.

Herrera-Uria, J, Espinosa, J. & Ortea, J., 2016. Dos nuevas especies del género Cochlodinella Pilsbry & Vanatta, 1898 (Mollusca: Gastropoda: Urocoptidae) de la Isla de la Juventud, Cuba. – Revista de la Academia Canaria de Ciencias, 28: 89-96.

New Cuban Urocoptids

In the annual journal of the Santo Domingo natural history museum, a paper appeared in which Herrera-Uria and Espinosa described two new Urocoptidae from Cuba.


“Two new species of the genera Liocallonia Pilsbry, 1902 and Tetrentodon Pilsbry, 1903 are described. These species belong to the “Miguel L. Jaume” historical malacological collection housed in the National Museum of Natural History of Cuba. Photographs of the shells are presented”.


One of the species is known only by the holotype, the second species is based on twelve specimens.

Herrera-Uria, J. & Espinosa, J., 2016. Descripción de dos especies nuevas de Liocallonia y Tetrentodon (Gastropoda: Pulmonata: Urocoptidae) procedentes de la collección “Miguel L. Jaume” del Museo Nacional de Historia Natural de Cuba. – Novitates Caribaea, 10: 31-37.

Narrow-range Cerion from Cuba

Freshly pressed…. In the latest number of The Festivus that I found this morning in our library, González et al. have a paper on Cerion from Cuba. “The exceedingly polytypical genus Cerion (Röding, 1798), with around 91-92 species described for Cuba is still poorly studied. The urgent need of more studies related to ecology, genetics, environmental components, morphology, conservation status plus a serious taxonomic evaluation of the genus in the archipelago is more than evident. The present paper reviews the narrow-range Cerion taxa that occur in the coastal zone of the Holguin province, in northeastern Cuba, including comments on each taxa. Additional observations related to other taxa from the same geographic coastline area are included to reinforce the importance of further research studies that the authors believe need to be conducted”.


The paper comprises data on 15 taxa (species or subspecies) with adequate (although somewhat darkish) photographs of each taxon, and two plates which facilitate comparisons.

González, A., Fernández, A., Lajonchere, L.A. & Berschauer, D.P., 2017. Narrow-range taxa of Cerion (Mollusca: Cerionidae) in the northeastern province of Cuba. – The Festivus, 49 (1): 3–17.

Molluscs from Isla de la Juventud, Cuba

A checklist was published of land snails from the Sierra Bibijagua on the Isla de la Juventud, south of Cuba by Herrera-Uria (2016). The abstract reads “Sierra Bibijagua are marmoreal elevations located on northern Isla de la Juventud (Island of Youth), southwestern Cuba. Isla de la Juventud is the largest island (2,200 km2) of the Canarreos Archipelago, Greater Antilles. A checklist of terrestrial molluscs re- corded from Sierra Bibijagua is presented, including the following information: synonymy, type locality, updat- ed distribution, endemism, and photographs of shells and living individuals whenever possible. e checklist comprises 12 families and 16 genera currently known from the area, including six new records: Farcimen pro- cer, Leidyula oridana, Liguus fasciatus, Subulina octona, Glandinella poeyana, and Bradybaena similaris”.


The paper can be found here.

Overview species from Dominican Republic and Cuba

Harry Lee posted on the Conch-L site a message on a joint project of Simon Aiken and Bill Frank, who made a selection of land snails from Cuba and the Dominican Republic available through two You Tube videos and two sections of the jaxshells website.

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Here is his post:
“After a prodigious campaign spread over the long weekend, the
peripatetic snailer/nature photographer Simon Aiken and indefatigable
webmaster Bill Frank have completed posting a tour-de-force through
the landscape of Cuba and Hispaniola (Dominican Republic) focused on
terrestrial snails of two islands, largest of the Greater Antilles.

Here are the appropriate links:

Cuba slide show; try it first if you like.
<http://www.jaxshells.org/cubanmollusks.htm> Cuba landing page.

DR slide show; try it first if you like.
<http://www.jaxshells.org/1001.htm> DR landing page”

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