02 July 2005

Notes from the AMS meeting

American Malacological Society had its 71st annual meeting last week at Asilomar on the Monterey Peninsula in California.

The organization suffered from 2 problems. First, unlike previous years' meetings when talks were usually organized by systematic groups (land snails, freshwater mollusks, etc.), this year they were according to general subject matter (taxonomy, reproduction, etc.). Consequently, the times of several land snail talks overlapped, forcing me to choose one talk over another. Second, even though the organizers had indicated that there would be field trips on Thursday, there were none and this wasn't announced until Wednesday. Hopefully, next year's meeting will be better organized.

Overall, however, it was a good meeting; everyone was friendly and there were plenty of good talks and opportunities to meet new people. Among the talks I listened to I especially enjoyed the following presentations.

Angus Davison (University of Nottingham) talked about the phylogeny of the 2 mating positions in land snails: face-to-face and shell mounting. Dart-bearing species are restricted to those groups who mate face-to-face. Esther Lachman (Hebrew University) discussed the recolonization by land snails of an area in Israel that was burnt by a wildfire in 1997. Levantina hierosolyma and Buliminus labrosus (rock crevice-dwellers) survived the fire, while Euchondrus septemdentatus (soil dweller) was exterminated by the fire and has not since recolonized the area. Ira Richling (University of Kiel) showed photographs of what she said was a copulatory organ developed from the mantle fold in male helicinids (Neritopsina: Helicinidae) that otherwise lack penises. Ira's studies of these operculated land snails have been very interesting and after I read the 245-page "reprint" she gave me, I will post more about her findings. Luke P. Miller (Stanford University) presented the results of his work with intertidal Littorina species that survive at low tide out of water on very hot rocks. Interestingly, to move their bodies as far from the hot rock surface as possible, the snails perch their shells at the edge of the apertural lip. His findings should also apply to land snails that aestivate on hot rocks or soil. Marta J. deMaintenon (University of Hawaii) discussed the anatomical consequences of miniaturization in columbellid marine snails (Neogastropoda: Columbellidae). Although I don't normally work with marine snails, Marta's generalizations might apply to the evolution of very small land snails, such as Punctum.

There were also opportunities for other activities. Several times at low tide I visited the rock pools below the conference grounds to watch and photograph the creatures in them. They will be the subjects of future posts. We were at the Monterey Aquarium Monday night, where we ate desserts and drank wine while watching the jellyfishes and the sharks. Thursday morning John Slapcinsky took me, Ira Richling and Liath Appleton on our own field trip during the few hours we could spare before our flights home. And I found one.........Helix aspersa - hurrah!

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