10 August 2005

Talk about exciting reading: The Slugs of Greece

This week’s book in the bag is the Polish malacologist Andrzej Wiktor’s1 The Slugs of Greece, volume VIII in the Fauna Graeciae series, published in 2001. I had ordered a copy from Backhuys Publishers back in the Spring and it arrived a couple of weeks ago. The cost, including shipping, was almost 50 Euros, or $66.50.

I am primarily interested in the slugs of Turkey. However, I bought this book for two reasons. First, I suspect that Greece and Turkey share some of their slug species, especially those that live along the western Mediterranean coasts of Turkey and the adjacent Greek islands and those in the Thrace. Second, no comparable monograph on the slugs of Turkey has yet been published.

The book is, fortunately, in English and it is well illustrated. Drawings of preserved specimens and of genitalia are given for almost all the species recorded from Greece. There are distribution maps, an index of all the generic and specific names mentioned in the book and a short essay on the zoogeography of the slugs of Greece. If you are too interested in the slugs of Greece and Turkey I recommend this book.

Okay, now the shortcomings of the book. It would be good to have at least one figure in the book that labeled the individual parts of the genitalia. I am familiar enough with slug anatomy to figure out what is what, but a novice would be very confused by all the unlabeled drawings. Ideally, good color pictures of live slugs would be much more preferable to black and white drawings of preserved specimens. Understandably, however, a book with color photos would have been too costly to produce given the fact that the production of this book as it is was already delayed for about 6 years for “economic reasons”. As the author indicates, this unfortunate delay in production resulted in some of the taxonomic information being obsolete when the book finally came out.

What is also obsolete is Wiktor’s paleogeographic basis for the zoogeography of the Aegean area. For this, Wiktor seems to rely on a 1943 paper2. This was long before our current, and still incomplete, understanding of the paleogeography of the Aegean Sea, based on plate tectonics, was developed. Another event that Wiktor doesn’t consider, but which might also have influenced the dispersal, not only of slugs, but of most other animals, was the drying of the Mediterranean Sea about 5 million years ago.

The biogeography of the Aegean Sea area offers many puzzles and challenges. Much more work needs to be done before we have a better understanding of how evolution shaped the animal and plant faunas into what they are today. Wiktor’s book will be a good starting point for all future work.

1. A Polish colleague instructed me that, for those of us ignorant of Polish, a good enough phonetic spelling of this name would be “Andjey Viktor".
2. The full citation for this paper (“Jeannel 1943”) along with a few other works cited in the text are not included in the list of references at the end of the book.


Anonymous said...

Oh my god. I am thinking of buying a property in Greece (Crete) but am TOTALLY phobic of slugs. I was optimistically hoping they would not live there but this is clearly not the case. What is the best way to keep slugs away? How can I avoid them? Please! Any advice gratefully received. THANKS!


Don't try to avoid slugs! Learn to live with them. Sorry, but I can't give you any other advice, because I like slugs.