November NS Branch Meeting Report
Club members and presenters Andrew Cummings and Ben Schneider have travelled thousands of kilometres around the state collecting land snails; many are new species which will take years to describe.
Andrew informed us that there are an estimated 2500 – 3000 native species in Australia. These make up about six per cent of our terrestrial animal diversity.
The Western Australian species mostly belong to two families: Bothriembryontidae and Camaenidae. The snail now known as Bothriembryon costulatus collected from Steep Point was the first Western Australian land snail to be described. This was in 1822 by the French naturalist and early evolutionist, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck.
Probably because of their “sluggish” locomotion each species has a limited areal distribution. Andrew broke the state into regions and told us the number of named and undescribed species in each along with specific locations and characteristics. In most cases the species were illustrated by detailed photos taken by Ben.
|Region||Named Species||Unnamed Species|
|The Central West||2||3|
|The Lower West (incl. Perth)||4 + 2 forms||0|
|The South West||4||0|
|The Central Wheatbelt||2||3|
|The Great Southern||3||0|
|The South Coastal||8||6|
|The South East Coast||4||1|
The four Bothriembryon species found in the Perth area have distinct distributions. The descriptively named
B. bulla baconi (right) is restricted to the Darling Scarp,
B. kendricki (right) has been found in Kings Park as well as the Darling Scarp,
B. serpentinus (left), as the name implies, is found at Serpentine Falls, and on the Darling Scarp.
B. indutus (left) inhabits Walyunga National Park and the Waroona area as well as Kings Park,
Of interest to club members will be the species found in the Rica Erickson Nature Reserve southwest of Calingiri. It has not been described yet but for the time being is referred to as B. “ericksonae”.
Ben told us about a new species from the Eucla coast which he and another researcher recently named Bothriembryon toolinna after Toolinna Cove, a remote spot that takes about three hours to reach from the Eyre Highway.
The family Camaenidae is one of the major land snail families of the world, centred around Asia but living throughout the Indo-Pacific. Within Western Australia they are most numerous in the Kimberley region and the number of genera decreases in a southward direction, being absent in the south-west of the state.
Native land snails live in just about any habitat but will never become garden pests because they cannot digest the cellulose in plant material. Instead they dine on micro-fungi.
Andrew completed his presentation by running through the many Australian and foreign malacologists who have described Western Australian species. One of the most notable was English-born Tom Iredale (1880 – 1972), who was responsible for creating the family Bothriembryontidae in 1938 while working at the Australian Museum.