17 March 2013

Bootleg transactions of the 15th MAM meeting

The 15th meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Malacologists took place yesterday at the Delaware Museum of Natural History (DMNH) in Wilmington, Delaware. I counted 35 names on the sign-up sheet, 12 of whom gave talks.

Here are the speakers in the order they spoke and the not-more-than-two-sentence summaries of their talks.

  • Paula Mikkelsen talked about the paleontologist Floyd Hodson who, while working for an oil company in 1931, described an Oligocene fossil from Trinidad as a rudist (rudists were fossil bivalves that went extinct in the late Cretaceous). Hodson's fossil turned out to be a hipponicid gastropod and his mistake ended his career.
  • Adam J. Baldinger presented an update on the recent renovations in the Department of Malacology at the Museum of Comparative Zoology (Harvard University) and the upcoming relocation of the dry collections. He also discussed the problems encountered during digitization of old collection records
  • Charlie Sturm summarized his ongoing project to determine if the bivalves Gloripallium pallium and G. speciosum are indeed 2 separate species.
  • Robert Robertson discussed the protoconch size bimodality sometimes observed in the shells of the gastropods in the Architectonicidae.
  • Makiri Sei gave an update of her ongoing project with Gary Rosenberg on the phylogeny of the Pleurodontidae in relation to that of the Hygromiidae.
  • Ilya Tëmkin talked about an old wax model of the anatomy of the bivalve Pinna that he encountered in the storage of the Paris Museum. The model turned out to be a creation of Giuseppe Saverio Poli (1746-1826), the Italian polymath who also studied mollusks.
  • Francisco Borrero discussed a project he is doing with Luz A. Velasco about a bivalve found along the coasts of Colombia that appears to be an Electroma species introduced from the Indo-Pacific.
  • Aydin Örstan presented preliminary results from the field test on the colonization and hybridization of 2 species of Albinaria in Turkey he and Tim Pearce have been conducting.
  • Hassan Moustahfid discussed various internet databases on cephalopods and how to transfer data between them.
  • Liz Shea talked about how she and collaborators Alex Ziegler, Cornelius Faber and Tim Shank used magnetic resonance imaging to identify a baby deep-sea cirrate octopus based on the morphology of its internal shell and other characteristics.
  • Megan Paustian discussed the reproductive anatomies and external morphologies of the species in the slug genus Pallifera.
  • Tim Pearce presented preliminary results of his ongoing project in collaboration with Timothy J. Dolan on the land snails of riverine wetlands in Pennsylvania. A few species seem to be more common in wetlands than they are elsewhere.
  • Once again I will take this opportunity to thank to Liz Shea, the curator of mollusks at the DMNH and Leslie Skibinski, the collection manager, for organizing this wonderful meeting. I am already looking forward to next year's gathering.

    The bootleg transactions of the 14th MAM meeting are here

    18 January 2013

    Cecilioides on plasticine

    These shells of the land snail Cecilioides janii were positioned on plasticine for photography. In an e-mail, Francisco Welter-Schultes wrote: "...your picture looks really good, like the artist's interpretation of a scientific snail photo." The artistry was an unintentional outcome of the plasticine being an old piece with mixed colors (that story is here).

    The piece of art is currently on display at AnimalBase. And a manuscript about the presence of this species in Turkey is in works.

    24 December 2012

    Charles Darwin and Baron Aucapitaine

    After a long hiatus, I return with one last post before the year ends.

    In the fourth edition of The origin of species (1866), Charles Darwin, while discussing the results of his limited experiments on the survival of land snails after prolonged exposure to sea water, added that someone named Baron Aucapitaine had recently tried similar experiments. Darwin summarized Aucapitaine's results, but did not give his source of Aucapitaine's data. Presumably, this was in accordance with the more relaxed standards of citation of the period. Generations of writers have quoted Darwin's paragraph as a support for the potential dispersal of land snails via rafting over the oceans. But no one seems to have bothered to determine if and where Aucapitaine had published his results. So back in June of this year, to satisfy my curiosity I spent several days scouring the internet. My efforts paid off eventually and I was able to track down Aucapitaine's relevant publication.

    Read about Henri Aucapitaine, his work with snails and his interaction with Darwin, which may never have taken place, in my short note on p. 15 of the November newsletter of the wonderful Society for the History of Natural History.

    I wish everyone a Happy New Year. I will try to post more often in 2013. Maybe.

    30 July 2012

    Gastropod anatomy from photographs of live animals

    One can learn much about gastropod anatomy by watching live animals and studying their photographs. In fact, there are certain aspects of gastropod anatomy that are hard to appreciate in preserved specimens. Some examples with nice photos are in this article of mine that recently was published in Mollusk World, the magazine of the Conchological Society of Great Britain and Ireland. A pdf copy is available here.

    16 July 2012

    Discus rotundatus in Montreal


    In August 2008, I announced here my finding of the snail Discus catskillensis on Mont Royal in Montreal, Canada*. Subsequently, a few readers questioned my identification and suggested that the snail I had found was more likely the European species D. rotundatus. While the former species is a native of North America, the latter was introduced to the eastern U.S. early in the 20th century and later to Canada.

    For a more definite identification, I needed more specimens. But I did not have a chance to go back to Mont Royal until August 2011 when I was able to collect a few more shells. Last fall, I compared the Montreal specimens with the shells of several Discus species. The results indicated that the Montreal species was indeed D. rotundatus.

    The final outcome of this project was a short paper that recently got published in Check List. You may download a copy of it from here.

    *I have now deleted the original post of 2008. Attempting to revise it would have been too much trouble.

    02 June 2012

    Notes of a Cepaea watcher: a whole lotta eggs

    One of the 2 Cepaea nemoralis I have been keeping since last winter dug a deep hole in the soil and deposited eggs in it a few days ago. Today I removed all of the eggs. There were so many that I couldn't get an accurate count; I estimate the total to be more than 70.

    Here is the snail with an egg stuck to its foot.

    About 15 of them got damaged during the recovery process. I don't quite know what to do with the rest. I am incubating them in a dish at the moment. I don't want to release them outdoors. I may end up using them in some experiments.


    21 April 2012

    How long is the shell of Batillaria minima?

    The intertidal snail Batillaria minima has been the subject of numerous posts on this blog (for example, check out this and this). Batillaria minima inhabits tidal flats with low rocks often in dense populations. At low tide, snails become emersed and large numbers of them can be collected easily. These characteristics make the species a suitable subject for different studies. So I've been collecting data on various aspects of the biology of this species during vacation trips in Florida since the early 2000s. One short paper comparing shell heights of large samples measured in 2007 and 2009 has just come out. A pdf copy is available. I am hoping to put out additional papers about B. minima in the future.

    01 April 2012

    Bootleg transactions of the 14th MAM meeting

    The 14th meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Malacologists took place yesterday at the Delaware Museum of Natural History (DMNH) in Wilmington, Delaware. There were about 35 attendants, one of the highest numbers in recent years.

    Here are the speakers in the order they spoke and the not-more-than-two-sentence summaries of their talks.

  • Marla Coppolino, a talented illustrator of mollusks, explained how she prepares illustrations for manuscripts and presented examples of her work.

  • Makiri Sei talked about her ongoing project with Gary Rosenberg on the phylogenies of Jamaican Annulariidae and Pleurodontidae.

  • Kaitlin Coolahan presented an introduction to the symbiotic relationship of the bacterium Vibrio fischeri with various squid species. The bacteria live in the light organs of the squids.

  • Liz Shea and Alex Ziegler took turns to highlight the preliminary results of their use of magnetic resonance imaging and micro-computed tomography to study the internal anatomies of cephalopods.

  • Tim Pearce talked about the upcoming relocation of the mollusk collection at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History to new quarters. The new steel cabinets that will house the shells are expected to reduce the incidences of Byne's disease caused by acidic vapors leaching from old wooden cabinets.

  • Robert Robertson talked about the teleplanic larvae of marine gastropods, their distributions in the Atlantic and their food. Teleplanic larvae, defined as larvae that spend 3 months or more in the plankton in the open seas, are present in many marine gastropod families.

  • Aydin Örstan presented some preliminary results from his survey (with identification support from Susan Hewitt) of the coastal gastropods and bivalves in the vicinity of the Aegean town of Çeşme in western Turkey.

  • Bradley Stevens talked about the research he and his students are carrying out on the reproductive biology and growth of the whelk Busycotypus canaliculatus. The whelk is being heavily fished off Massachusetts with apparently no concern for the likely collapse of its population in the future.

  • Gary Rosenberg is organizing this year's meeting of the American Malacological Society scheduled for June 16th-21st in Philadelphia/Cherry Hill. Gary presented highlights of the planned activities and pictures of the hotel where the meeting will take place.

  • Francisco Borrero summarized his ideas on the similar color banding patterns observed on the shells of numerous land snail families, including the Camaenidae, Pleurodontidae and Helicidae. Is the underlying process phylogenetics or evolutionary convergence?

  • Megan Paustian presented an outline of the ecology of terrestrial slugs, including their foods, behavior, predators and conservation status.

  • Paul Callomon talked about the history of malacology in Japan in the 1940s and the nomenclatural problems associated with the species descriptions published by the malacologists Kuroda and Kira during that period, especially in the genus Fusinus.

  • Once again I will take this opportunity to thank to Liz Shea, the curator of mollusks at the DMNH and Leslie Skibinski, the collection manager, for organizing this wonderful meeting. I am already looking forward to next year's gathering.

    Participants, with only a few missing, posing outside the DMNH after the meeting.

    The bootleg transactions of the 13th MAM meeting are here