Tag Archives: diversity

Diversity of Helicinidae

Although already presented at the “Magnitude of molluscan diversity – the known and the unknown” Symposium held at the 78th meeting of the American Malacological
Society (2012), Ira Richling’s excellent paper on diversity of the Helicinidae was recently published (Richling, 2014).


Presenting a history of helicinid research starting in 1801 (the first taxon described was a Jamaican species), she has analysed the development of the diversity through time and also a number of revisions to compare the number of accepted (sub)species to available names. Under ‘Drawbacks in exploration’ several aspects (listed below in the abstract) are extensively discussed, which have an importance beyond the scope of the paper.

It would be interesting to explore these issues for other (large) land snail families in the (Neo)tropics. One of these issues is the “limited availability of wet preserved material”, which is quite crucial to make advances both in morphological and molecular studies. Unfortunately, the forthcoming implementation of the Nagoya Protocol (cf. Renner et al., 2012) makes things probably worse and opens up the possibilities for unwarranted claims from local scientists and license authorithies for financial expenditures, and more (examples are known of claimed co-authorship for several papers without any content contribution). Given the ongoing crisis in natural history museums, this is an avenue leading to disasters.


The full abstract of the paper reads: “Helicinids represent a family of tropical land snails with a distribution range limited to the subtropical and tropical zones of the New World, Australasia, and the Pacific. For an estimate of diversity in this poorly systematically revised group, the total number of described taxa was determined and used for calculations based on analyses of selected case studies with regard to the percentage of valid and new taxa.
Extensive bibliographic searches identified about 1,250 available names, regardless of rank, that were described from 1801 onward. Fiftyeight percent of the names represent New World taxa whose majority (63%) was created before 1880 while the intensive study in most of the
Australasian and Pacific areas started much later with the bulk of taxa described between 1880–1930. An analysis of the distribution of the type localities and the times of descriptions allowed for identification of scarcely- and well-studied areas.
Eight potentially representative case studies of major revisions were compared with respect to changes in described versus “true” diversity. The geographic range covered Costa Rica, Cuba, Jamaica, Lesser Antilles, New Caledonia, northeast Australia, and the Hawaiian and Gambier
Islands. In these studies approximately half of the available names were regarded as synonyms (range from 37 to 72%). On the other hand, 36 to 41% of the recognized diversity represented new species depending on whether a more lumping or splitting approach was considered, the
latter simulated by simply counting subspecies as equal units of diversity. The amount of new taxa ranged from 2% (Cuba) to 90% (Gambier Islands). Under the assumption that six of the studies were representative throughout the area of distribution, worldwide diversity would
range from 770 to 1,140 species or up to 1,400 species if the studies from the Australasian-Pacifi c area were realistic. Although obviously poorly studied, in comparison with an estimate for all continental molluscs of Mexico and Central America by Thompson (2011), helicinids
would still be among the better documented snail families for this region.
The following aspects and their consequences are discussed as most significant drawbacks in the exploration of helicinids: questionable systematic concepts above species level; limited recognized differentiating characters and convergence; species complexes and last, massive
habitat loss, increasingly fragmented distribution and extinction. Another practical aspect is the rather limited availability of wet preserved material”.

Renner, S.C. et al., 2012. Import and export of biological samples from tropical countries—considerations and guidelines for research teams. – Organisms, Diversity & Evolution 12: 81–98.
Richling, I., 2014. Poorly explored jewels of the tropics: Estimating diversity in non-pulmonate land snails of the family Helicinidae (Gastropoda: Neritopsina). – American Malacological Bulletin 32: 246–258.

Snail diversity in northern Argentina

In the latest issue of Revista de Biolog??a Tropical, an important paper was published about the malaco-biodiversity of two areas in northern Argentina. Both areas are in Prov. Tucum??n and cover two contrasting biotopes: the humid Yungas and the xerophytic Chaque??a.

In each biotope, two transects (Y1, Y2, C1, C2) were sampled in which 25 plots of 10×10 m were sampled for snails, both micro- and macromolluscs. The diversity of these areas are compared to other studies that have been done in Argentina, Brazil, and French Guyane.
The full abstract of the paper (not yet online) is:
Studies related to land mollusk diversity in tropical and subtropical forests are scarce. To assess this, a study on land snail diversity of subtropical cloudforest (Yungas) and dry forest (Chaco) areas of Sierra de San Javier Park, Tucum??n, Argentina, was carried out. Taxonomic identifications were performed to species level and built a species per stations data matrix to analyze diversity patterns on qualitative and quantitative samples processed from 10x10m quadrates in altitudinal transects. Non parametric analysis (ICE, ACE, Chao 1 and Chao 2) were used to estimate the true diversity of the area, as well as the degree of undersampling and spatial aggregation of the data. Diversity was also calculated using Shannon, Simpson, Whittaker and Jaccard indices. The richness of the San Javier Park was estimated to be 32 species distributed into 13 families and 21 genera. From the total number of species collected, a single one belongs to Caenogastropoda, while the rest of the species are classified into Pulmonata Stylommatophora and Systellommatophora. The most representative family was the micromol- lusc Charopidae, while the most relatively abundant species was another micromollusc snail, Adelopoma tucma. Richness and diversity were slightly more elevated in dry forest areas of the Chacoan Ecoregion than in cloud forest areas of Yungas. Non parametric estimators showed that the inventory was complete. Diversity values obtained were high in comparison to previously studied areas of Northwestern Argentina. The total number of specimen collected (22 169 specimens), was higher than other published studies.

Miranda, M.J. & Cuezzo, M.G., 2010. Biodiversidad de gaster??podos terrestres (Mollusca) en el Parque Biol??gico Sierra de San Javier, Tucum??n, Argentina. – Revista Biologia Tropical 58: 1009-1029.