The original picture is shown in this blogpost.
This poor Viana regina (Morelet, 1849) was completely covered with red chigger mites (Acarini: Trombuculidae). In their review of this group, Wharton & Fuller (1952) only cite one species from Cuba, Trombicula (Eutrombicula) alfreddugèsi (Oudemans, 1910). This is a wide-spread species in the Nearctic and Neotropics. At the time of their writing, the hosts on which it was known to occur listed mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibia. There may be a record of snails as host in more recent literature; if not, it is a new record now.
The animals are known to cause scrub typhus and dermititis, caused by feeding on digested host tissue and lymph. It the picture below it can be seen that the chiggers not only dwell on the shell, but also on the snail.
Adrián spotted these mites also on Nodalia species (Urocoptidae).
Thanks to Herman Cremers for pointing me to the right group and source of literature.
Wharton, G.W. & Fuller, H.S., 1952. A manual of the chiggers. The biology, classification, distribution and importance to man of the larvae of the family Trombiculidae (Acarina). - Memoirs of the Entomological Society of Washington 4: 1-185.
He also found two specimens that were mating.
Maybe a bit voyeuristic, but still interesting to see how these snails do “it”, as data on sexual bahaviour of snails “in the wild” are largely unknown.
Snails foraging on the ground can easily meet some decaying animals. And although they are supposed to be herbivores, sometimes they may be (temporarily?) omnivorous. According to Adrián “this Zachrysia was really enjoying the caterpillar”.
The first pictures are of Zachrysia guanensis castanea Aguayo & Jaume, 1954, from the Cuajani valley in Viñales, Piñar del Río province. This is an animal with a split in the right ocular tentacle.
The second series considers Polymita muscorum from Holguín province. Here is P. m. splendida Torre, 1950 from municipality of Frank País, Corinthia:
Interestingly, this population shows very few or none of the spots that are normal in P. muscarum.
But Adrián also found an albino form that is very common in many populations; this one is also P. m. splendida from Cano Doce, Banes in Holguín province. Note the spots on the shell typically of P. muscarum and compare them with those on the last shell in this series, which is known as P. sulphurosa flammulata Torre, 1950.
The dots in this shell may indicate a hybridization process between P. sulphurosa and P. muscarum.
Finally, within the population of P. m. splendida at Cano Doce, there is a conical shaped form, described as variety subrocheri by Carlos de la Torre in 1950 (foreground left in the next picture). It is recommended that this population is studied before their habitat is converted into pasture land.
Within this population, some abnormal (‘teratological’) shaped specimens were observed.
Alejandro Fernández, Vicente Berovides and Bernardo Reyes-Tur have made important studies about Polymita (references in the bibliography on Cuban land snails). One of the papers is by Fernández & Berovides (1995), reporting on the different subspecies of P. muscarum in Holguín province. The distribution of these forms in this province would make a more detailed study, using DNA to clarify the phylogeography of the traits, very interesting.
Thanks Adrián, for sharing this information.
Fernández, A. & Berovides, V., 1995. Las subespecies de Polymita muscarum en Holguín (Gastropoda: Helminthoglyptidae). - Cocuyo 4: 26-28.
The majority of shells on stamps are marine shells. They strike the eyes. Landsnails are underrepresented, and Neotropical landsnails are hardly figured on stamps.
Recently, Cuba issued a series of stamps to commemorate the 150th birthday of Dr Carlos de la Torre. Polymita picta and Liguus fasciatus are both shown in this series.
entitled Bibliography of Cuban terrestrial Mollusca,
including related and biohistorical papers on Cuban
malacology, is now available here.
This is the outcome of joint work with Adrián González, which had quite some elapsed time but was kick-started when Adrián send me his rough data.
We know that some data are still missing, but if you find any omissions or have suggestions for additions, please let us know.
We expect to formally publish this work within a few months. Hence, to be continued...
The first is a book by Espinosa & Ortea, published by Spartacus Foundation and the Cuban Zoological Society. I haven’t seen it myself yet, but I found the following announcement of a book dealer:
This is a gorgeous book and I think that the photography here is possibly the best live animal photography that I have seen in all of my other titles. It is simply amazing and the book is also an amazing work. Its focus is to introduce us to the numerous families of terrestrial mollusks that live in Cuba. Most of the shells are show alive in their natural habitat in extreme close up. The text (in Spanish) gives us an overview of the shell family, its habitat , the characteristic of these shells and a lot of background information. My Spanish is not good enough to understand the more technical details that the authors have written but from what I can understand it is a carefully written and thoroughly researched book. The authors and the photographer are prominent workers in the scientific field and it is a shame that their names and their works are not well know in the USA. The last section of their book is a check list of 1393 species of land-shells found in Cuba.
From what I saw of the pictures in the announcement, some will be the same as those used in the book of González. They partly share the same photographer. Hopefully, they have corrected all the errors they made in the previous version of their checklist (Espinosa & Ortega, 1999). But a judgement should be postponed till I have actually seen the book.
The second book on Cuban terrestrial snails is, if possible, even more obscure and curious. It is a publication based on an unfinished manuscript of Torre & Bartsch. There is a quite complication story to this book (which is beyond the scope of this blog), that has been published as a tribute to Carlos de la Torre y Huerta (1858-1950) in 2008. From what I know, several new species are described in this book, casting an interesting question on the rules of nomenclature. Are they to be credited to the original authors (as posthume work) or to the editor of this book?
Again, let’s first see this book before making a judgement.
Finally, an impressive book will be published on February 16, entitled “Amazonia: landscape and species evolution. A look into the past”. I had the privilege to have a sneak preview and I can assure you this will be a reference work for those working on the biogeography of northern South America.
This book focuses on geological history as the critical factor in determining the present biodiversity and landscapes of Amazonia. We explore the different driving mechanisms for landscape evolution by reviewing the history of the Amazon Craton, the associated sedimentary basins, and the role of mountain uplift and climate change. Throughout the book we provide an insight into the Meso- and Cenozoic record of Amazonia that was characterized by fluvial and long-lived lake systems and a highly diverse flora and fauna. This fauna includes giants such as the ca. 12 m long caiman Purussaurus, but also a varied fish fauna and fragile molluscs, whilst fossil pollen and spores form relics of ancestral swamps and rainforests.
Finally, we review the molecular datasets of the modern Amazonian rainforest and aquatic ecosystem, and discuss the possible relations between the origin of Amazonian species diversity and the palaeogeographic, palaeoclimatic and palaeoenvironmental evolution of northern South America. The multidisciplinary approach in evaluating the history of Amazonia has resulted in a comprehensive volume that provides novel insights into the evolution of this region and can serve as reference for a variety of scientists working in Amazonia.
The book is written by leading scientists of the Amazonian research community and should be of interest to all students and researchers concerned with the natural history of Amazonia. Potential readers will include geologists, geographers and biologists who wish to understand the evolution of landscapes and biota of this unique region.
I hope to briefly review this book after its publication.
Espinosa, J. & Ortega, J., 2009. Moluscos terrestres de Cuba: 1-191. Spartacus Foundation/Sociedad Cubana de Zoología.
Hoorn C. & Wesselingh, F. (eds.), 2010. Amazonia: landscape and species evolution. A look into the past: 1-447. Wiley-Blackwell.
Torre, C. de la & Bartsch, P., 2008. Los moluscos terrestres Cubanos de la familia Urocoptidae: 1-730 + 1-23. Editoria Científico-Técnica, La Habana/Ruth Casa, Panama.
The new issue 18 has several articles that are interesting to Neotropical snail lovers.
Ignacio Agudo has an interesting wrap-up of 13 years inventory work in Brazil, Santa Catarina state. He has an impressive list of freshwater and terrestrial molluscs needing conservation attention. In total, 37 taxa out of the 116 recorded for this state are considered either vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered according to IUCN Red List criteria. Amoung the latter category are Drymaeus papyrifactus, Anthinus turnix, and Bahiensis punctatissimus.
Agudo & Lenhard give a concise overview of the introduced molluscs in Brazil. Their list has 28 terrestrial gastropods, 12 freshwater and 5 marine taxa. They also discuss seven species of which the introduction is unresolved (some authors consider them native) and 16 taxa that have potential to invade Brazil.
Conservation issues in eastern Cuba are the subject of two other papers.
Maceira & Batista discuss the problems in El Gigante Ecological Reserve. An inventory of this 10.5 km2 large reserve lists 10 species (80% endemism) of land snails. Human activities resulting in destruction and fragmentation of the habitats and introduction of wide-spread species, like Deroceras reticulatum and Succinea angustior, threatens the malacofauna.
In a second paper Maceira, Pascual & Reyes report on the species found in a second reserve, Silla de Romano. In this 2141 ha area, 25 species (76% endemic) were found during an inventory in October 2008. Here too, destruction of habitats and fragmention threatens the snail population. Wild pigs are predating on some species as food.
Clavijo et al. describe the conservation priorities for Uruguayan land and freshwater molluscs. However, land snails are only briefly mentioned in a Table and the emphasis in this paper is totally on freshwater snails. According to these authors, 46 species of terrestrial Gastropoda (63% of total) are in need of conservation action.
Finally, Régnier shows that records of extinct molluscs in the Red List are biased. A critical revision of the list revealed that the 279 species already listed, 288 species must be added. Of this new total of 566 taxa, 422 are terrestrial.
Agudo-Padrón, A.I., 2010. The mollusc fauna of Santa Catarina State, southern Brasil: knowledge gained from 13 years of research. - Tentacle 18: 32-37.
Agudo-Padrón, A.I. & Lenhard, P., 2010. Introduced and invasive molluscs in Brasil: a brief overview. - Tentacle 18: 37-41.
Clavijo, C., Carranza, A., Scarabino, F. & Soutullo, A., 2010. Conservation priorities for Uruguayan land and freshwater molluscs. - Tentacle 18: 14-16.
Maceira Filgueira, D. & Batista, Y., 2010. Land molluscs conservation problems in El Gigante Ecological Reserve, eastern Cuba. - Tentacle 18: 20-22.
Maceira Filgueira, D., Pascual Pérez, R. & Reyes Brea, J., 2010. Land molluscs of the Silla de Romano Protected Area, north coast of Cuba, and their conservation problems. - Tentacle 18: 22-25.
Régnier, C., 2010. Many unnoticed extinctions: do molluscs really account for half the toll? - Tentacle 18: 2-3.
From the ca. 1300 species known from the island, the authors list 136 species for this national park occurring at 12 limestone hills. Twenty-one species are recorded for the first time from this region.
Although currently there is only a printed version available, the paper will also appear online at the site of the journal.
Oliva-Olivera, W. & Real, R., 2009. Moluscos terrestres de las elevaciones cársticas de Viñales, Pinar del Río, Cuba. - Revista Biologia Tropical 57: 589-604.
Here are some Blaesospira echinus infernalis unlucky to have this fate.
The picture is courtesy of Adrián González.
The three Cuban species all occur in the northern part of Isla de Pinos, on isolated calcareous hills. This is the map from Clench & Jacobson (1970; reference see previous post), and gives a more or less schematic impression of the situation in the early 1930s.
Distribution of Priotroachatella species. Blue circle, P. constellata; green star, P. torrei; purple triangle, P. stellata. Modified after Clench & Jacobson, 1970.
This is how this area looks today, viewed through Google Earth. The city has considerably expanded and the roads have been altered in part, but the hills are still there. However, part of Sierra de Casas has disappeared. See the red box.
Here is a magnification of the boxed area, which shows that a quarry is eating away the hill.
And here is a side view at ground level.
As noted in my previous post, Priotroachatella species are known to dwell on calcareous rocks. Contrary to the reports from Jamaica, the Cuban species are cave dwellers. Both constellata and stellata are seriously threatened by the exploitation of marble quarries, driving these species into extinction.
It may be noted that these species are highly restricted in range and habitat and easily meet the criteria for Critically Endangered of the IUCN Red List. As I have repeatedly argued before, it is a serious omission that so few land snails are included on this List. Many need to be recognized according to the categories of this List and to be protected. Not only on Cuba, but other (Neotropical and other) snails as well.
S.O.S., Save Our Snails!!!
Today is about the helicinid genus Priotrochatella Fischer, 1893. These snails are very, very beautiful and, to say the least, they are very peculiar.
On Cuba three species have been reported, all from the Isle of Pine. The first one of which I’ve got a picture is P. costellata (Morelet, 1847).
The second species is P. stellata (Poey, 1851).
The third species is P. torrei Clapp, 1918. For a picture, see Clench & Jacobson, 1970.
More on the ecology and conservation of these species in a later post. Many thanks to Adrián González for his kind permission to show these artistic photographs here.
The genus is also known from Jamaica, where two species occur: P. josephinae (C.B. Adams, 1849) and P. pulchra (C.B. Adams, 1851). According to Ira Richling, the former species lives on moss covered calcareous rocks. On Gary Rosenberg’s site on Jamaican landsnails, I found a picture of P. pulchra and it also shows the shell amidst moss and lichens, perfectly camouflaging itself.
Clench, W.J. & Jacobson, M.K., 1970. The genus Priotrochatella (Mollusca: Helicinidae) of the Isle of Pine and Jamaica, West Indies. - Occasional Papers On Mollusks 3 (39): 61-80.
Both are from Cuba, Prov. Pinar del Río, Sierra de Guane. The picture above is Callonia ellioti (Poey, 1857), characterized by the upward pointed axial ribs. The one below is C. lowei (de la Torre, 1927). According to Jaume & de la Torre (1976) this species is characterized within the genus by the last whorl not being solute and not having pointed axial ribs. Well, a double negation but still a stunningly beautiful animal.
Does it suffice to say that I like to have the best of both worlds? Just an ardent lover of Neotropical snails...
Jaume, M.L. & de la Torre, A., 1976. Los Urocoptidae de Cuba (Mollusca-Pulmonata). Ciencias Biologicas (Habana) 53: 1-122.
These pictures are Liguus fasciatus crenatus (Swainson, 1821) from this area. Besides being a devoted malacologist, Adrián is a very skillful photographer to whom I like to give full credits.
The photographs presented today are Proserpina depressa (Orbigny, 1842). These pictures were taken by Adrián González Guillén in Prov. Pinar del Río, near Viñales and San Carlos valley. This species shows a remarkable disjunct distribution, both being present in the western and eastern part of the island.
Wonderful snails to see and the interesting fact is that Adrián noted that two different morphs were encountered.
It is clear that more research in this genus may lead to interesting discoveries.
Many thanks Adrián, for sharing these pictures here.
Boss, K.J. & Jacobson, M.K., 1975a. Proserpine snails of the Greater Antilles. - Occasional Papers on Mollusks 51: 53-90.
Boss, K.J. & Jacobson, M.K., 1975b. Catalogue of the taxa of the subfamily Proserpininae (Helicinidae: Prosobranchia). - Occasional Papers on Mollusks 52: 93-102.
It is called Idiostemma alfredoi. The holotype is in the Holguin Natural History Museum; paratypes are in the Berlin museum.
Although all pictures in the paper are black/white, some of them are nicely picturing the habitat of this new taxon.
Franke, S. & Fernández V., A., 2007. A new land snail of the genus Idiostemma Pilsbry & Vanatta, 1898 (Gastropoda: Urocoptidae) from Eastern Cuba. - Schriften zur Malakozoologie 23: 79-86.
Malacology is but a small part of the results, for which field observations were made during four days in September 2002. The only picture of snails is, however, from Liguus fasciatus.
It is a new record for the Sierra de Cubitas and together with another new record for Steatocoptis bioscati, the total number of molluscs for the area is 50.
When I glanced through the report, my eyes caught some interesting sentences related to Opisthosiphon (Annulariidae). Four species of this genus occur in the Sierra de Cubitos: O. banoense, O. evanidum, O. greenfieldi, and O. obturatum. “Individuals of the four species were seen copulating with one another and I was able to determine that females always have a pattern of dark stripes on their shells, while the males have pale or dark shells without those stripes.” The authors add that this observation should serve as a starting point for a taxonomic review of the genus.
It is precisely observations like this which can only be made in the field and which make these reports special. A little gem found, that I wanted to pass on to you.
More reports from the same series, covering also other Neotropical countires, can be found here. However, not all contain data on molluscs. Actually, only a few others related to Cuba...
Díaz, L.M., Alverson, W.S., Barreto, A. & Wachter,T., 2006. Cuba: Camagüey, Sierra de Cubitas: 1-180. Rapid Biological Inventories Report 08. The Field Museum, Chicago.
Last year a beautiful book was published on Cuban land-snails (González Guillén, 2008); it was mentioned briefly in this and this post. Upon my request, the author sent me several pictures of Liguus, illustrating the bewildering variation as far as the colour pattern goes. Each colour form is restricted to a small area of limestone hill(s); in Cuba called ‘mogote’. Many of these morphs are already extinct or highly endangered, due to the destruction of the mogotes for tourism (or economic ‘development’). Still, there is none of them listed on the IUCN Red List 2008. I have expressed my doubts about the listing procedure earlier here.
Much has already been written about Liguus, most often in popular articles. Yet, the genetical mechanism is incompletely known and the phylogeography is still poorly understood. In my humble opinion, Liguus needs urgently more attention.
Many thanks to Andrián González for sending me these stunning pictures. From left to right, top to bottom: Liguus fasciatus achatinus Clench, 1934; L. f. goodrichi Clench, 1934; L. f. torrei Clench, 1934; L. flammellus bermudezi Clench, 1934.
González Guillén, A., 2008. Cuba, the landshells paradise: 1-306. - Greta Editores, Lleida.
Hillis, D.M., Dixon, M.T. & Jones, A.L., 1991. Minimal genetic variation in a morphologically diverse species (Florida tree snail, Liguus fasciatus). - Journal of Heredity 82: 282-286.
A very quick search in Scholar didn’t reveal any relevant reference about mucous threads and snails, other than to marine and freshwater molluscs. I wonder if anything has been reported in the scientific malacological literature. Perhaps the observation in Borneo with spiderlings associated to shells was merely by chance. If the threads are really mucous from the snails, one would suspect some evolutionary advantage connected to this behaviour.
If you have any suggestion, please let me know.