Land snail diversity in Brazil
Rodrigo B. Salvador
Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, New Zealand.
Brazil is a megadiverse country for many (if not most) animal taxa, harboring a significant portion of Earth’s biodiversity. Still, the Brazilian land snail fauna is not that diverse at first sight, comprising around 700 native species. Most of these species were described by European and North American naturalists based on material obtained during 19th-century expeditions. Early 20th century malacologists, like Philadelphia-based Henry A. Pilsbry (1862–1957), also made remarkable contributions to the study of land snails in the country. From that point onwards, however, there was relatively little interest in Brazilian land snails until very recently. The last decade sparked a renewed enthusiasm in this branch of malacology, and over 50 new Brazilian species were revealed. An astounding portion of the known species (circa 45%) presently belongs to the superfamily Orthalicoidea, a group of mostly tree snails with typically large and colorful shells. It has thus been argued that the missing majority would be comprised of inconspicuous microgastropods that live in the undergrowth. In fact, several of the species discovered in the last decade belong to these “low-profile” groups and many come from scarcely studied regions or environments, such as caverns and islands. These places still undoubtedly hide many surprises for malacologists and there is still a long way to go until we have a good understanding of the terrestrial gastropod fauna in Brazil. The science behind this venture, however, is still underfunded and moving at a snail’s pace. This is especially unsettling, as land snails are deemed one of the animal groups most vulnerable to extinction, and the overly-exploited natural environments in Brazil might not last long, especially considering the country’s recent environmentally harmful policies.
Cite as: Salvador R.B. (2019) Land snail diversity in Brazil. Strombus 25(1–2): 10–20.
Publication date: 02 November 2019.