Tag Archives: mexico

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.

Champion shells

Ever heard of ‘champion shells’…? I had not, but since yesterday someone told me of ‘champion trees’ in England, I got the context… the biggest, largest. It must be a human fascination…;-)

Anyhow, I the most recent number of Shell-O-Gram, the newsletters from the Jacksonville Shell Club, I noticed an article by Harry Lee about a giant shell from Mexico.

“In the March-April SOG, a new species of Euglandina from southeastern Mexico was treated. It belonged to a truly remarkable group of carnivorous snails mostly from the highlands of Mexico and Central America – some of which exceeded four inches in height. Through the magic of the Internet, a concatenation of subsequent events led to the discovery of a truly remarkable mollusk shell belonging to a closely related species, also apparently limited to Mexico. The specimen figured above is believed to be the largest native terrestrial snail shell ever found in North America, which includes Central America.

Before the discovery of this leviathan, the largest known shell belonged to a congener, but it was not identified as to species (see sweepstakes tabulation on p. 9 taken mostly from the literature cited below). Now the sweepstakes winner is clearly Sr. Vinagrillo’s specimen. Olé!”.

Lee, H.G., 2017. Euglandina sowerbyana (L. Pfeiffer, 1846) – a true champion shell. – The Shell-O-Gram, 58 (3): 8-9.

New records from Baja California

Baja California is an area with a rather scarce land snail fauna, and limited focussed papers in literature. Clark & Salisbury (2016) report on a small collection made during a biodiversity survey inside the Sierra La Laguna Biosphere Reserve, where a new gold mine is being planned.

The snails reported are already known from other localities on the penisula, viz. Naesiotus rimatus (Pfeiffer, 1847), N. spirifer (Gabb, 1868), and Rabdotus sufflatus (Gould in Binney, 1859). A new record is a as yet unidentified Succinea species, which was only collected as dead shell material.

Clark, W.H. & Salisbury, R., 2016. New land snail records for Baja California Sur, Mexico. –Conchylia, 47 (3-4): 59-64.


Boettgerilla pallens in Mexico

Boettgerilla pallens Simroth, 1912 is a slug of Palearctic origin which has become invasive in the Americas (Canada, USA, and Colombia). Araiza-Gómez et al. (2016) now report this species also from Mexico, based on both anatomical dissections and molecular studies.


Araiza-Gómez, V., Ruiz, E.A., Naranjo-Garcia, E. & Zúñiga, G., 2016. Recent collecting reveals the presence of Boettgerilla pallens (Stylommatophora, Boettgerillidae) in Mexico. – American Malacological Bulletin 33: 227–231.

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).


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.


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.


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.


Invasive Deroceras slugs

Just published: a paper by Hutchinson et al. (2014) on invasive Deroceras slugs. The abstract reads:

The article reviews distribution records of Deroceras invadens (previously called D. panormitanum and D. caruanae), adding significant unpublished records from the authors’ own collecting, museum samples, and interceptions on goods arriving in the U.S.A. By 1940 D. invadens had already arrived in Britain, Denmark, California, Australia and probably New Zealand; it has turned up in many further places since, including remote oceanic islands, but scarcely around the eastern Mediterranean (Egypt and Crete are the exceptions), nor in Asia. Throughout much of the Americas its presence seems to have been previously overlooked, probably often being mistaken for D. laeve. New national records include Mexico, Costa Rica, and Ecuador, with evidence from interceptions of its presence in Panama, Peru, and Kenya. The range appears limited by cold winters and dry summers; this would explain why its intrusion into eastern Europe and southern Spain has been rather slow and incomplete. At a finer geographic scale, the occurrence of the congener D. reticulatum provides a convenient comparison to control for sampling effort; D. invadens is often about half as frequently encountered and sometimes predominates. Deroceras invadens is most commonly found in synanthropic habitats, particularly gardens and under rubbish, but also in greenhouses, and sometimes arable land and pasture. It may spread into natural habitats, as in Britain, South Africa, Australia and Tenerife. Many identifications have been checked in the light of recent taxonomic revision, revealing that the sibling species D. panormitanum s.s. has spread much less extensively. A number of published or online records, especially in Australia, have turned out to be misidentifications of D. laeve.



Hutchinson, J., Reise, H. & Robinson, D., 2014. A biography of an invasive terrestrial slug: the spread, distribution and habitat of Deroceras invadens. NeoBiota 23: 17–64. Available at http://neobiota.pensoft.net/articles.php?id=4006.