Tag Archives: liguus

Cuban Liguus

More and more attention is being given to conservation issues and duely so as the Neotropical area seems to be understudied in this respect. González Guillén et al. just published a paper on a Cuban Liguus species, with the following abstract: “The Liguus blainianus lineage from western Cuba is presented, with a discussion of its placement as a subspecies of Liguus fasciatus, current and historical range, distribution maps, comments about past and recent field work and it’s hybridization with L. f. archeri. Color images of live animals and their habitat are included. An argument is made for creating a protected area to avoid the extinction of this beautiful and important race of tree snails“.

Schermafbeelding 2019-12-30 om 09.10.01

After the recent book on Liguus, this is a more detailed discussion of the status of this taxon and its distribution.

González Guillén, A. et al., 2019. Liguus blainianus, an Endangered Lineage of Liguus from the Rosario Range in Western Cuba. – Festivus, 51(4): 265-272.

Translocation of Liguus

A recent paper (Aborrezco et al., 2018) on the same subject as my previous post reports on an ecological experiment aimed at conservation.

Their abstract (which might have benefited from a check by a native-speaker) reads: “The management of species, whose populations are being object of affectation for deterioration and disappearance of their habitats, is a real necessity to be able to conserve the biological diversity in areas of reduced superficial size, like the cays. The objective of the investigation consisted on translocate the local endemic snail subspecies Liguus fasciatus sanctamariae Sánchez-Roig, 1951 (Mollusca: Pulmonata: Orthalicidae) in cay Santa Maria, Villa Clara province, Cuba. The research was carried out in the cay with more extension and with more number of vegetable formations. The method of collection employed was of total removal in the created parcels and defined to such effects. All the snails were collected, counted, and organized by morphs and sizes, to carry out morphological studies and of scoring with indelible painting. The used method was Pre-Release Activation Treatment (PRERAT). The subspecies object of investigation assimilated the new receivers areas once liberated the specimen and with positive results as for the survival. It was concluded that the translocation of populations of L. fasciatus sanctamariae, a local endemic subspecies, polymorphic and charismatic, valued as vulnerable, will allow its reestablishment in areas near as in new with same potentialities would feed, what will allow to conserve this subspecies of endemic snail of the diversity biological of Cuba”.

Schermafbeelding 2018-10-28 om 10.20.02

This ‘subspecies’ belongs, if we accept the revisionary work of González-Guillen et al. [previous post], to the lineage of Liguus fasciatus aguayoi Clench, 1934. See also the remarks on pp. 75 and 179 in their book about the Santa Maria key populations.

Aborrezco-Pérez, P. et al., 2018. Tanslocación del caracol endémico Liguus fasciatus sanctaemariae (Mollusca: Pulmonata: Orthalicidae) en el Cayo Santa María, Villa Clara, Cuba. – The Biologist (Lima), 16 (1): 9-23.

Liguus book

Just received the new book on the genus Liguus by González et al. A contribution that put some weight (3.4 kg to be precise) and size (4 cm on your bookshelves) to the subject.

Gonzalez 2018 Liguus_Title

Leafing through the book with much attention I noticed the following which will also form my review:

This book is the third book on land snails of the first author and the second one which is confined to one genus, the previous books entirely confined to Cuban species. For this book on the Orthalicidae tree snail genus Liguus distributed from Hispaniola to Florida, Adrián González joined forces with Pete Krull and Luiz Lajonchere; the latter has published on this genus before. The book has 10 chapters on historical studies, collections, palaeogeography, taxonomy of the Cuban, Floridan respectively Hispaniolan (sub)species and colour forms, biology and ecology, and finally conservation issues. On the enclosed CD appendices to several chapters and the bibliography is found. There are 161 (unnumbered) plates of Liguus colour forms and hundreds of colour photos of live snails. 

Liguus tree snails have catched the eye of shell collectors and artists since the beginning of the 17th century till today. They have many different colour patterns and hybridisation between several colour forms does occur, as well as gigantism and dwarfism. The result is an astonishing number of names for them, either officially or unofficially introduced which can be found in both museum and private collections. The book starts with a disclaimer “not deemed to be valid for the purpose of formal taxonomic nomenclature”. Although this seems a justified action, it is perhaps also a too modest action once one realises that 161 names are available for Liguus taxa (Appendix 11), plus several unofficial varieties and a bunch of manuscript names. The authors have neatly streamlined this horrendous chaos into five species (including Liguus flamellus and L. blainianus; if the biological species concept is applied only three remain: Liguus fasciatus, L. virgineus, L. vittatus). The core of the book is thus the two taxonomic parts (Chapters 4 and 5: pp. 63-279 for Cuban taxa, and Chapters 7 and 8: pp. 304-421 for respectively Floridan and Hispaniolan taxa), in which the species, their subspecies and lineages are treated by giving for each the original publication, the type locality, the description, their distribution and concluded by remarks. Especially the many Cuban taxa have not always been properly figured, and the authors have done much effort to search for these specimens and photograph them to modern standards. Almost each is beautifully illustrated on the plates which show 24 shells each, grouped in four rows. On several pages (pp. 73-74, 132, 198, 265, 304, 345, 411-412) maps are given that help to understand how the subspecies and lineages are distributed. Several interspersed plates illustrate the living specimens of one or more morphs.

Gonzalez 2018 Liguus_Shells

Gonzalez 2018 Liguus_Maps

The introductory chapters 2 and 3 present historical data, including iconography and collecting information. Many historical photos are included, and I spotted some that I have not seen before. A brief chapter 4 presents the geological background needed to understand current distribution. Chapter 6 bridges both taxonomical parts and treats a question that several scientists have been struggling with: the connection between Cuban and Florida Liguus taxa. Although many unanswered questions remain, the authors suggest that Liguus baby shells were carried on the wind of hurricanes from Cuba to Florida. They also suggested that these were relatively recent (geologically speaking) events. Of course, these and other questions needs further confirmation and future molecular studies may hopefully at least partially solve them. The final two chapters (9 and 10) are devoted to the biology, ecology and conservation of these snails. In the first one data are compiled among others about life span, population density, predation, host plants and trees. The last chapter treats habitat destruction, introduced predators, protection regulations and laws, protected areas and some suggestions for further conservation.

Gonzalez 2018 Liguus_Appendices

The appendices have been stored on an accompanying CD, which when I inserted it in my system appeared to contain one rar-file. After decompressing a pdf-file of similar size was shown, which raises the question why it was compressed anyway. The file has several appendices showing supplementary information, e.g., historical collecting field trips by U.S.A. malacologists to Cuba, the dispute of the holotype and ‘type’ locality of Liguus fasciatus, collectors mentioned on labels of Cuban Liguus shells, manuscript names and their current status, a list of available names, and additional ecological, anatomical, and conservation data. Together these form the first 58 pages. The final 30 pages are bibliographical references, a huge list in small print.

The authors justified write in the introduction “there has never been of book about Liguus that included every named form from the Cuban archipelago, peninsular Florida, and the island of Hispaniola”. In fact they have made a revision of the genus which is easily readable for non-scientists and, together with the many high-quality photographs, have done an amazing job. Are there no critical remarks to be made? Yes, but only a few. The plates are unnumbered and therefore no link is made between the text and the illustrations. Also no index has been provided which would  have helped to locate easily both the scientific names and person names in the book and appendices. Both points make the book less useful as a reference work. While the authors say “word can fly but writings remain” (p. 497), they would have done better to replace the CD (soon outdated) with a more permanent alternative; the information in the appendices is too important to have it not available.

My overall impression is that this work will be seen as a hallmark for the decades to come. The book will serve both amateurs and professionals and should not be lacking in any relevant library. 

González-Guillén, A., Krull, F. & Lajonchere-Ponce de Leon, L.A., 2018. Liguus. The flamboyant tree snails: 1-498 + 88 pages on accompanying CD. F. Krull, 132 1st ST. E #105, Tierra Verde, FL 33715, U.S.A. ISBN 978 0 9847140 5 6. Price US $ 189.90 net (hardcover).

Molluscs in the news

Two news items came to my attention today. The first has been taken from the Conch-L list and is about conservation of Florida land snails. “Florida Fish and Wildlife [Conservation Commission] has just sent out a posting regarding endangered and threatened species. There are two proposed rulings on Tree snails. The one  is Liguus and the other is Orthalicus. Here is the Liguus and other species  link. http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/imperiled/species-action-plans/”. Only Liguus fasciatus is mentioned, together with more than 50 species of other phyla.

Liguus Florida

The ‘Science in the news’ site had an item on natural history museums and how these institutions, behind the scenes, are centers of cutting-edge research. One example is the recent discovery of a Plekocheilus species, collected back in the 1800s. More brushing off the dust than cutting the edge, but anyway…

Color-full and catching the eye

Under this ttitle an iconographic study of Liguus shells from the 17th-beginning of 20th century just has been published. The first book in which a Neotropical snail, L. virgineus (L., 1758), was illustrated we are aware of was Philippo Buonanni’s Recreatio mentis et oculi. This appeared in 1684.


The illustration of species from this genus is followed through time, with comments on their (current) classification, until the first full-colour photographs in Simpson’s 1920 book “In lower Florida wilds”.

Unfortunately there are some glitches in the text, and the table appears to be in very small print in the hardcopy (but should be more legible in the PDF); the bold print intended for some text in the table has not survived the editorial process. The correct file is given below (link).


Breure, A.S.H., Álvarez-Lajonchère, L. & González Guillén, A., 2014. Color-full and eye-catching: an iconography of Liguus land shells (Gastropoda: Orthalicidae). – Archiv für Molluskenkunde 143: 1–19.

A puzzling citation

The search started when, during preparation of a manuscript on Liguus, I found a mysterious citation in Chemnitz (1786: 9). It read “Encyclop. Rec. de Pl. tom. 6 tab. 64 fig. 2”. The first word should be “Encyclopédie” and everything suggested it to be a French title. But no author, and I couldn’t readily find a full reference to it as no author was given. In the 10th and 12th editions of Linnaeus’ Systema naturae no mentioning of it, so at least we could conclude – if it was a pre-Linnean source – it was not well-known; likely it was post-1767 (12th ed.) and pre-1786 (Chemnitz).

One colleague suggested Bruguière’s ‘Encyclopédie méthodique…’, but (1) this was published post-1786, and (2) this didn’t have a plate 64. Nevertheless, I found in Bruguière 1792: 363 the same citation “Encyclop. Recueil des planches. t.m. 6, pl. 64, fig. 2”. Thus definitely a French book.

After having consulted several internet sources in vain (a.o. BHL, AnimaleBase), I sent some mail requests to colleagues. Finally, a library staff member of the Natural History Museum, London, turned up the book on the internet [1]. As expected it is French, without author name (making it hard to find) and was published in 1768.


Quite unexpectedly I found the figure referred to by Chemnitz arranged with  the fishes (‘Poissons’). At least in this internet version it is a very poor figure, hard to say what species it is if one had no clue [2].


The explanation of the plate reads:


This describes the colour pattern of Liguus virgineus (L., 1758) very well and the locality “Saint-Domingue” [Hispaniola] refers to the known occurrence.

Chapeau to Kamila Harper-Reekie (NHM Library) who laid the cornerstone for solving this puzzle!

Anonymous (1768): Recueil de planches, sur les sciences, les arts liberaux, et les arts méchaniques, avec leur explication. Cinquième livraison, ou sixième volume: [61 pp. +] 104 [+1] + 14 + 9 + 3 + 3 + 3 + 8 + 7 pls. Paris (Briasson, David & Le Breton).
Chemnitz, J.H. (1786): Neues systematisches Conchylien-Cabinet. Neunten Bandes zwote Abtheilung, enthaltend die ausfürliche Beschreibung von der Land- und Flussschnecken, oder von solchen Conchylien, welche nicht im Meere, sondern auf der Erde und in süssen Wassern zu leben pflegen: xxvi + 194 pp., pl. 117–136. Nürnberg (Raspe).

[1] http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Encyclopédie_-_Planches_-_Volume_5#Poissons
[2] http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/87/Encyclopedie_volume_5-118.png

Petiver and the art of copying

This post is on a rare book, a kind of incunable, perhaps without being generally recognised as so. The author is James Petiver (c. 1665–1718) who lived in London where he held an apothecary, but became well-known for his study of botany and entomology. [1] So to speak, he was the London equivalent of his contemporary Albertus Seba.

During his life time he published on rare animals and plants (his Gazophylacii work), in which he sometimes copied illustrations from older authors, sometimes based himself on specimens from his own collection (Petiver, 1702–1711). A.o. he had copied a figure from Martin Lister’s Historiae sive synopsis methodicae conchyliorum, which had appeared 1692–1697, without mentioning a source. [2] While nowadays this would undoubtedly been considered as plagiarism, this was probably an accepted custom in those days. It was a ventral figure of Liguus virgineus (Linnaeus, 1758), included in Petiver’s work on pl. 22 fig. 11.


In a rare posthumous work of Petiver, ‘Opera Historiam‘ [3] a second figure turns up. It is the same species, but this time in dorsal view. Comparison with older figures reveals it being a modified copy of Buonanni’s Recreatio mentis et oculi in observatione animalium testaceorum (1684); the shell is in mirror-shape and the original shadow was omitted. [4, 5]


I like to express many thanks to Jonathan Ablett (NHM, London), who – as always – has been very helpful to supply bibliographical data.

Buonanni, F. (1684): Recreatio mentis et oculi in observatione animalium testaceorum: curiosis naturae inspectoribus: [xvi +] 270 [+ 10] pp., 139 unnumbered pls. Romae (Varesii).
Lister, M. (1692–1697): Historiae sive synopsis methodicae conchyliorum et tabularum anatomicarum: 1057 pls. + 5 pls. with duplicate numbers + 22 anatomical pls. Londini.
Petiver, J. (1702-1711): Gazophylacii naturae et artis decas I (-X). In qua animalia, quadrupeda, aves, pisces, reptilia, insecta, vegetabilia … descriptionibus brevis et iconibus illustrantur: 156 pls. – London (Bateman).
Petiver, J. 1764: Jacobi Petiveri Opera Historiam naturalem spectantia; or Gazophylaceum containing several 1000 Figures of Birds, Beats, Fish, Reptiles, Insects, Shells, Corals, Fossils etc. from all Nations on 156 Copperplates, with Latin and English Names. – London (Bateman).

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Petiver.
[2] Cf. Lister, pl. 15 fig. 10.
[3] Essentially a re-issue of his earlier work. See Gaedike, R.; Groll, E. K. & Taeger, A. 2012: Bibliography of the entomological literature from the beginning until 1863 : online database – version 1.0 – Senckenberg Deutsches Entomologisches Institut and the annotation therein. 
[4] Cf. Buonanni (1684: fig. 66).
[5] More on pre-Linnean and Linnean figures for this group of shells in a paper scheduled to appear in July in the Archiv für Molluskenkunde.

Early Liguus collectors

During preparation for a temporary move, I was packing my malacological stuff and archives. Suddenly I hit a bunch of thin papers, type written but clearly a carbon copy as I had two identical ones. It was purely by serendipity that I found it.

The list totalled ca. 200 names, some well-known, some never heard of before. The full list is here: http://bit.ly/13W0IRc.
What was it? I couldn’t trace it anywhere; in my (partially incomplete) correspondence archive I couldn’t find any reference to it. The title suggested the list to have been made in the end-1950s, but by whom? And had it been published or was it simply a draft?

As there are many names from people in Florida, my guess was the source had to be found there. I decided to scan it and to send to Harry Lee (Jacksonville, FL), asking him if he could shed any light on this.

He quickly replied: “Very interesting. The entry for Maxwell Smith was likely made after the University of Florida received his collection (1979; as the lion’s share of the University of Alabama Collection; see <http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/about-us/overview/brief-history/>). This style of typography/onionskin CC is typical of Tom (maybe also brother Paul) McGinty, who resided together in Boynton Beach, Palm Beach Co., FL.

I replied I was in doubt if this was really made after 1979, since after that date (my PhD was in that year) I slowed down my research fairly quickly and wasn’t much in correspondence with people abroad. My guess was then late 1979 or 1980 at the latest. Curious that Paul McGinty is mentioned twice, one mentioning “brother of Tom” [who isn’t mentioned]; would one of these really be the author of this list?

Harry’s answer was quick again: “Based on context, I’d say that in the second McGinty entry “Paul” was a lapsus for “Thomas.” I can’t find any other evidence for entries later than 1958:
(1) Carlos Aguayo left Cuba in 1958 [see <http://www.listserv.uga.edu/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind9911A&L=conch-l&P=R932>]. Thus that entry was made no earlier than 1958.
(2) Henry A. Pilsbry died in 1957. At the time he was still Curator of Malacology at ANSP. The author referred to him as “Former Curator.” Thus I must conclude that entry was made no earlier than 26 October, 1957. The writer used “former” rather than “late” with some consistency.
It’s possible that the Maxwell Smith entry was based on misinformation, however prescient.”

If you were an author and making such a list, would you readily make a lapsus in the name of your brother? Hmmmm….

Some hours later Harry’s white-smoked message dropped in my mailbox: “A lapsus indeed. I found the author! It was Ralph Humes; see < http://digitalcollections.fiu.edu/tequesta/files/1965/65_1_03.pdf >. Tom McKinty [sic; second lapsus], was the Pilsbry collaborator, not Paul.”

Chapeau Harry!

My archive copies were clearly early drafts of what turned into an interesting paper, full of data and stories about the time that Liguus was out and abound in southern Florida. But still, no idea how these copies ended up in my archive…

Humes, R., 1965. A short history of Liguus collecting, with a list of collectors—1744 to 1958. – Tequesta: The Journal of the Historical Association of Southern Florida 1(25): 67-82.

Cuban land snails

Recently I received a copy of a paper on Cuban terrestrial snails by Maceira et al. (2011). It had been published in the journal ‘Gaia’, of which I had frankly not heard before. The paper gives an overview of the history of Cuban malacology, which now is by far the best studied place in the Neotropics related to malacohistory. The paper is in Spanish, but with an English abstract.

The land mollusc fauna, in Cuba, is represented by the subclass Prosobranchiata (476 species, 52 genera, 6 families) and the subclass Pulmonata (922 species, 103 genera, 27 families). In the present paper we rebuilt the history of Cuban Malacology during the period encompassed from January 4th, 1839 until May, 2010, with spot citations corresponding to 1684, 1774, 1780 and 1786, all of which summarizing 171 years of research regarding this branch of Science. Along centuries XVII and XVIII, a few Cuban species were discovered, all of them erroneously attributed to Italy and China. On the XIX century 132 new Cuban species were described as new to Science, also in this period it was published “Contribución a la fauna malacológica cubana”, the first catalog of Cuban mollusks written by Rafael Arango y Molina. On the 20th century, golden age to Cuban Malacology, they published some of the most important work monographs on Cuban mollusks of all times. A list of outstanding contributors´ names from 1900 to 1950 is the following: A. A. Welch, Abelardo Moreno, Carlos de la Torre, Carlos Guillermo Aguayo, Charles Ramsdem de la Torre, Henry A. Pilsby, Hortensia Sarasúa, J. Natenson, John Henderson, Luis Howel Rivero, L. Pequeño, M. K. Jacobson, M. Sánchez Roig, Miguel L. Jaume, Oscar Alcalde Ledón, Paul Bartsch, R. García Castañeda, R. P. Guitart, Víctor J. Rodríguez y William J. Clench. On the second half of the Century a new approach began to be made regarding the research goals and questions concerning this group of animals, also a new set of biologists´ names can be cited as most remarkable contributors to this subject: Alejandro Fernández Velásquez Alina Lomba, Antonio Mijail Pérez, Bernardo Reyes Tur, David Maceira, José Fernández Milera, Liana Bidart, José Espinosa, Jesús Ortea, Miguel Aangel Alfonso, Pastor Alayo Dalmau, R. Tadeo Pérez, Raúl Fernández Garcés and Vicente Berovides. It was found that the Isle of Youth has 75 infrageneric taxa. The most important higher taxa are Annulariidae with 18 species, Urocoptidae with 9 and Helicinidae gathering 8 species. Cuba exceeds to Jamaica in 835 species in total, 831 endemic species, 206 species of non pulmonated terrestrial mollusks and 678 of pulmonated. Cuba exceeds 847 species to La Española, 60 genera and 6 families, 224 species of terrestrial mollusks and 624 of Stylommatophora. In terrestrial pulmonated molluscs for Puerto Rico are recognized 150 species. The larger families were Subulinidae which has 12 species and 3 genera in Cuba than in Puerto Rico; Xanthonychidae with 48 species and 6 genera more in Cuba and Camaenidae 8 species more in Cuba and an equal number of genera in both islands.

The paper also gives a bibliography on the subject, and is therefore highly redundant with Breure & González (2010).

This paper put me on track of another one (Lauranzon et al., 2011), on the type material in the historical collections of Museo Historia Natural ‘Tomas Romay’, and Museo ‘Jorge Ramon Cuevas’. Both museums are localted in Santiago de Cuba resp. Baconao. In total 434 type specimens were recorded, belonging to the families Annularidae, Cerionidae, Megalomastomidae, Helicinidae, Orthalicidae and Urocoptidae. The material originated from the collections of Cleto Sanchez Falcon and Miguel L. Jaume.

This is an important contribution as it documents that these type species are still being preserved. Given the difficult circumstances in Cuba this is not obvious at all. The paper is, however, very concise and lacks important data which would be needed for further research. Besides the number of specimens and the locality and label information, no other useful data are presented and illustrations are totally absent. Nevertheless, in science all tiny steps help to make progress.

The third paper appeared in the same journal, Novitates Caribaea, which is annually issued by the Museo Historia Natural, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. It deals with two Cuban species and presents ecological data. The abstract reads:
The finding of individuals from the population of Cerion politum maisianum Pilsbry, 1902, cohabiting with individuals of Polymita brocheri (Gutiérrez, 1864) in one zone belonged to Paso de los Azules at Punta de Maisí, Guantánamo, after a research that was made in the area, it shows us the state that these species actually are. According to the proposal and applied scales P. brocheri and C. politum maisianum, both turned out Very abundant. The preferences on different substrates of these species are given too, finding the majority of the examples of P. brocheri at one height ≥ 0.50m and C. politum maisianum examples at one height < 0.25m, condition that makes possible its coexistence.

Breure, A.S.H. & González, A. Guillén, 2010. Bibliography of Cuban terrestrial Mollusca, including related and biohistorical papers on Cuban malacology. Netherlands Centre for Biodiversity Naturalis, Leiden, Netherlands. 62 pp.

Lauranzon, B., Maceira, D. & Moran, M., 2011. Material tipo depositado en las collecciones malacologicas historicas “Cleto Sanchez Falcon” y “M.L. Jaume” en Santiago de Cuba, Cuba. – Novitates Caribaea 4: 34-44.

Maceira, D., Espinosa, J. & Pérez, A.M., 2011. Historia de la malacologia terrestre cubana, 1839-2010.Gaia 12: 1-48.

Suarez, A. & Fernandez, A., 2012. Subnicho estructural y densidad poblacional de Cerion politum maisianum y Polymita brocheri en Paso de los Azules, Maisi, Cuba.Novatitates Caribaea 5: 66-72.