Tag Archives: xanthonychidae

Lysinoe ghiesbeghti

Dan Dourson, who is busy preparing a publication on the land snails from Belize, kindly sent me some pictures of Lysinoe ghiesbreghti (Nyst, 1841), for which Thompson (2011, Bull. Florida Mus. Nat. Hist. 50) list several subspecies. The type locality being Mexico, Chiapas, these subspecies range through Guatemala and Honduras. Dan wrote “have not found them in Belize (yet) but so impressed with their massive size!”. He did not write from which locality these are, but these giants are a nice view anyhow.


Thanks Dan!

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.

Photo of the day (126): Epiphragmophora

This picture was made by Lucio Spiderman in Argentina, Jujuy, Yungas district, Peña Alta. The snail is probably Epiphragmophora cryptomphala Ancey, 1897. 

Wood & Gallichan (2008: 39) wrote that Ancey spelled the name as eryptomphala in the description and cryptomphala in the plate legend of the same paper. “We are unaware of any published corrections of eryptomphala, but it almost certainly an original incorrect spelling. The correct original spelling should be fixed by the First Reviser if this has not already been achieved”.
The revision by Cuezzo (2006) did not mention the spelling difference in the original publication, but she uses the name E. cryptomphala.

There are two other species which may be confused with E. cryptomphala: E. trigrammephora d’Orbigny, 1835 and E. walshi Cuezzo, 2006. Cuezzo (2006: 132) writes “Parodiz (1957) and Fernández (1973) considered E. cryptomphala to be a subspecies of E. trigrammephora. However, the main differences between E. cryptomphala and E. trigrammephora are found in both the shell and genitalia. In E. cryptomphalathe shell umbilicus is completely overlapped or fused with the columelar side ofthe peristome. The shape of the aperture is not as constant as in E. trigrammephorabeing subquadrangular to subovoidal, while in E. trigrammephora, all shells examined have a subquadrangular aperture.”. And “Epiphragmophora cryptomphala is similar to E. walshi n. sp. in that both have three peripheral bands in the shell. Also, both species live in Salta Province and are typical from xerophilic environments. Epiphragmophora cryptomphala differs from E. walshi n. sp. in the umbilicus that is narrower in E. walshi n. sp. and not overlapped by peristomal basal fold. Epiphragmophora walshi n. sp. is smaller in shell diameter than E. cryptomphala. Differences in the genitalia are mainly in the shape of mucous glands, insertion of their efferent ducts and shape and length of dart sac”.
The differences are thus subtle and as usually an expert eye may give a different opinion. The following picture are copied from Cuezzo (2006: Fig. 5D E. trigrammephora, Fig. 2A E. cryptomphala, Fig. 7C E. walshi; note that the scale bar does not apply to all three figures).

Thanks Lucio for sharing this photograph.

Cuezzo, M.G., 2006. Systematic revision and cladistic analysis of Epiphragmophora Doering from Argentina and southern Bolivia (Gastropoda, Stylommatophora: Xanthonychidae). – Malacologia 49: 121-188.
Wood, H. & Gallichan, J., 2008. The new molluscan names of César-Marie-Felix Ancey including illustrated type material from the National Museum of Wales. Biotir Reports (Cardiff) 3: i-vi, 1-162.



Polymita as ornament

Recently some (non-malacological) friends visited Cuba. I had asked them to be on the outlook for souvenir shops selling shells as ornaments. 

They sent me two pictures of necklaces made up by Polymita shells. “These were found only the far eastern side of the island, next to Parque Nacional Alejandro de Humboldt. They occur on many coffee plantations were they seem to be collected for making these necklaces”.

Although this may seem reassuring (“collected only in coffee plantations”), I will ask more details when I see my friends next time. Keep you updated.


Nomenclatorial forensics and Byzantinism in taxonomy

Harry Lee has just released two contributions on the excellent website of Bill Frank and himself (www.jaxshells.org) about the correct attribution of taxonomic names. What seems like a dispute about futilities is actually a good piece of detective work.

It all started in July 2010 in the Dominican Republic, Barahona Prov., Virgen de San Rafael area, where Alan Gettleman collected a Chondropomium and a Plagioptycha species. Harry identified these species as C. nobile and P. strumosa. However, he took the effort to carefully read the original description and discovered that it wasn’t as simply as thought on first sight.


 Photo: Harry Lee

The story on C. nobile can be found here (www.jaxshells.org/10088.htm). It involved quite some bibliographic researching and interpretation of the ICZN rules to reach the correct taxonomic name.


 Photo: Harry Lee

The authorship of Plagioptycha strumosa also involved forensic bibliographic research and can be found here www.jaxshells.org/0050a.htm. Harry’s assumption may be right that Reeve heard the reading of Pfeiffer’s paper at the meeting of the Zoological Society in London. However, I doubt he was able to immediately catch a vivid image of the shell in his mind by hearing its description being read. I have found, during my recent visit to the NHM collection, multiple instances where material described by Pfeiffer was returned to London accompanied by his handwritten taxon labels and later also used by Reeve. At the same time I have found material that was described by Reeve or Sowerby and that also bears labels in Pfeiffer’s handwriting. 

Although we cannot reconstruct the past as accurately as we would like, it may be a safe bet that during the 19th century there was more contact between malacologists than sometimes assumed, including swaps of material. Would there really have been that much byzantine machinations that we could say: “This clearly explains why Reeve was beaten senseless shortly after exiting a pub in the winter of 1855…..” (Kurt Auffenbach, in litt.)?