09 April 2005

Meet my namesake Metafruticicola oerstani

I have recently had a new land snail species named after me1. This is certainly an honor for me, especially since the new species is endemic to Turkey, where I am originally from. For this, I thank the authors Bernhard Hausdorf, Zeki Yıldırım and Burçin Gümüş. I personally know and have worked with Zeki and Burçin. I have exchanged many e-mails with Berhard Hausdorf, but haven't yet had the pleasure of meeting him in person.

So, what's the big deal with M. oerstani, besides being my namesake? Its type location on Barla Mountain, the only place where it has so far been found, has an altitude of 2550 m. The other new species Hausdorf et al., described in the same paper, Metafruticicola dedegoelensis, is likewise known only from a spot at an altitude of 2350 m on Dedegöl Mountains. Zeki has been collecting snails in that area for quite some time, and if either of these species lived at much lower altitudes, he would most likely have encountered them by now. So, it looks like these two species are restricted to high altitudes.

This tells us two things. First, there are probably many more unknown species that remain to be discovered on the mountains of Turkey. We have started surveying the Turkish mountains and are now planning future high-altitude expeditions.

Second, there must have been some pretty fascinating evolutionary events that resulted in the restriction of the ranges of these snails to cold and low-oxygen mountain tops, when their close relatives are enjoying an easier life in the warm meadows below. Not too long ago, Bernhard Hausdorf2 compared the altitudinal distributions of vitrinid semislugs (snails with rudimentary shells outside their bodies) with those of limacoid slugs (fully developed slugs with or without vestigial shells inside their bodies). He noted that the ranges of the most European semislugs are limited to altitudes above 500m and attributed this to their ecological displacement from the lower altitudes by the better adapted slugs.

A question immediately comes to my mind: could something like that have happened and still be happening on the Turkish mountains?

Incidentally, the above drawing of M. oerstani was done by Hülya Korkmaz, a talented student of Zeki.

1. Hausdorf, B., Gümüş, B. A. & Yıldırım, M. Z. 2004. Two new Metafruticicola species from the Taurus Mountains in Turkey (Gastropoda: Hygromiidae). Archiv für Molluskenkunde 133:167-171.
2. Hausdorf, B. 2001. Macroevolution in progress: competition between semislugs and slugs resulting in ecological displacement and ecological release. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 74:387-395.


Tim Pearce said...

Congratulations on getting a species named after you. At least your species has at least 3 known specimens (I am judging from the original description). The species that was named after me (Gulella pearcei Emberton, 2002) is known from a single specimen, the holotype, and in my opinion, doesn't look very different from some of the other species that were described in that paper. I have heard that some people who describe taxa on shaky grounds will name the taxa after people who are most likely to have taxonomic opinions, because then the person after whom the taxon is named will be less likely to synonymize the taxon because they would be sinking their own name! I don't know if that is the case with Gulella pearcei. But I think Metafruticicola oerstani looks like a well-described species, with multiple specimens, and well-described genitalia, so I think your name will stay out of synonymy.

Craig of capaf said...


I can assure you that if I ever get an asteroid named after me, I will not allow it to be given a first name that makes me think of cherry coke.

Congratulations. That's really cool about the environment of these things. Bet you can't wait to get back to Turkey.

I didn't even know that (some?) slugs have vestigial shells.