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Integrated conservation approach for the Australian land snail genus Bothriembryon Pilsbry, 1894: Curation, taxonomy and palaeontology

Whisson, Corey (2019) Integrated conservation approach for the Australian land snail genus Bothriembryon Pilsbry, 1894: Curation, taxonomy and palaeontology. Masters by Research thesis, Murdoch University.

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Abstract

Native land snails are important to ecosystems given their role in the decomposition process through herbivorous feeding of primarily decaying plant matter; calcium recycling and soil nitrification, and as a food source for larger predators. They also serve as a valuable bio-indicator group, especially in Western Australia where they are critical to Environmental Impact Assessments surveys. One conspicuous genus of native land snail found in Western Australia is Bothriembryon Pilsbry, 1894, a Gondwanan group endemic to the southern half of Australia and most diverse in the south-west of Western Australia. Eight species of Bothriembryon are listed as threatened at state and international level. Modern comprehensive reviews of land snails are needed to form good conservation policy however there are a number of knowledge gaps that are hindering the development of an effective conservation management plan for Bothriembryon. Most taxonomic studies on the genus have been based on shell morphology and the group requires modern molecular treatment to help clarify taxonomy. Additionally the group has been subjected to limited biogeographical and ecological studies, particularly those examining diet, predation and life span.

In this study legacy data of the seven nominally threatened south-west Western Australia Bothriembryon species was collated from Australian museums and institutes. This data set was compared with new data gathered through curation of the WAM Bothriembryon collection and targeted fieldwork. Together this augmented data set was designed to improve conservation initiatives, specifically an updated assessment of these species International Union for Conservation of Nature status. Additionally, during curation of the WAM Bothriembryon collection, genetically useful material of all described species was earmarked for DNA extraction toward the first molecular phylogeny of the genus.

This study addressed a major nomenclatural issue with the genus name Bothriembryon with case 3748 submitted to the ICZN to conserve the current genus usage. To promote nomenclatural stability, it was proposed that all type species fixations for the nominal genus Liparus Albers, 1850 and Bothriembryon Pilsbry, 1894 be set aside, and to designate Helix melo Quoy and Gaimard, 1832 as their type species.

Many undescribed species of Bothriembryon are known, some likely requiring conservation management, but only one species has been named in the last 30 years (as of 2016). In this study Bothriembryon sophiarum was described, based on shell and anatomical morphology, the latter using 3D scanning for the first time in this group. Because of its limited distribution, B. sophiarum Whisson and Breure, 2016 qualifies as a short range endemic.

Little published data on the fossil biogeography of Bothriembryon exists. In this study, fossil and modern data of Bothriembryon from Australian museums and institutes were mapped for the first time. The fossil Bothriembryon collection in the Western Australian Museum was curated to current taxonomy. Using this data set, the geological age of fossil and extant species was documented, and where material was available, shell sizes compared between fossil and modern populations. Twenty-two extant Bothriembryon species were identified in the fossil collection, with 15 of these species having a published fossil record for the first time. Several fossil and extant species had range extensions. The geological age span of Bothriembryon was determined as a minimum of Late Oligocene to recent, with extant endemic Western Australian Bothriembryon species determined as younger, traced to Pleistocene age. Extant Bothriembryon species from the Nullarbor region were older, dated Late Pliocene to Early Pleistocene. Most extant Bothriembryon species have similar fossil and modern shell sizes, except for B. fuscus Thiele, 1930, B. notatus Iredale, 1939, B. sayi (Pfeiffer, 1847), B. perobesus Iredale, 1939 and B. indictus Iredale, 1939, which had generally more elongate shells during the Pleistocene. This study did not significantly expand the biogeography or geological age of the group but the data set provided insights into the origin and radiation of Bothriembryon, and will enable future phylogenetic dating.

Collectively, data generated in this study will enable better conservation outcomes for Bothriembryon. This data will also contribute toward the first molecular phylogeny of Bothriembryon.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters by Research)
United Nations SDGs: Goal 15: Life on Land
Notes: Affiliation: Western Australian Museum/Taxonomy and systematics. The following papers resulted from this thesis: https://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/54511/ and https://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/41451/
Supervisor(s): Lymbery, Alan, Calver, Michael and Kirkendale, L.
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/54512
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