MAIISG newsletter - Number 3, December 2020
Save our Snails – a cry for help attended by the community
By António M. Frias Martins
Azorean land snails! In most people's perception, they aren't many, and they aren't worth the effort. Yet I knew they were there and that they are many! However, if people do not see them, how can they know they really exist? And so, how can people appreciate them, adopt them as their own natural heritage, care for their survival? These and other questions were dancing in my head when I decided to build-up a pictorial spread-sheet of the land and freshwater molluscs of the Azores. I called it a "Field Guide": all 122 recorded species, in full colour, most photographed alive, packed with distributional and biogeographical information, compacted in a plasticised 8-page pamphlet. Now people will know, so I dreamed…
The first Azorean endemic land mollusc was described by Augustus A. Gould in 1847 as Bulimus pruninus; deposited at the Smithsonian collection, the type of this elegant species was for a long time thought to be of tropical origin. It was only after the French naturalist Arthur Morelet's (1860) publication of the results of his and Henri Drouët's 6-month expedition to the Azores that the terrestrial malacofauna of the archipelago made its way to the scientific forum. Morelet (1860) recorded 66 species, 32 of which were endemic, thus calling attention to the uniqueness of the Azorean malacofauna. His publication, with colour illustrations, careful descriptions, and rich habitat details, was for a century the textbook of the Azorean land malacology.
In the late 1950s, the Dutch researcher Wim Backhuys visited the Azores to collect material for a PhD thesis, which he published in 1975. There, he thoroughly reviewed the literature, updated the descriptions and biogeography, listing 97 species, of which 35 were endemic. Moreover, by mentioning the many novelties that he had reserved for future publications, Backhuys lifted the veil onto a previously unsuspected added richness.
By the late 1970s, the University of the Azores was rehearsing its first steps and knowledge of the archipelago's natural heritage was then deemed to be an important research issue. As a result of intensive and extensive collecting throughout the archipelago, a reference collection of land snails was set up (DBUAç-MT = Departamento de Biologia, Universidade dos Açores – Moluscos Terrestres). Many new records were identified, and anatomical and molecular research revealed at least 40 new species awaiting description (Martins, 2005, Harris et al., 2013). Based on this collection, Martins (2011) listed those records for the Azores, including also the non-named, yet-to-be described species. The Field Guide (Martins, 2019) updates that listing and records 122 species, of which 53 are endemic.
The Field Guide was also a cry for help. Since the 1980s, at least four species are feared to be extinct, some yet to be described. They are all from Santa Maria, the oldest island and the richest in endemics. The IUCN, the Government of the Azores, the people from Santa Maria and some enthusiastic researchers studied the problem and put together the ambitious proposal "LIFE-Snails". The summary of it passed the first screening! I wish to believe that the Field Guide had something to do with the setting in motion of such proposal…
The force of difference!
By Carmo Freitas
Porto Santo Center for Occupational Activities (CAO) integrates the Department of Inclusion of People with Disabilities from the Madeira Social Security Institute, IP-RAM, Madeira Government. The institution ensures the transition to adult life for people with severe disabilities, aged 18 years or over, whose capacities do not allow, temporarily or permanently, the exercise of productive activity.
In the last four years, and given the peculiar and rich specificities of the biodiversity of the island of Porto Santo, it has started to boost activities with the island's snails. It is the region of Madeira with the highest percentage of endemic snails, 82% with 101 only species.
Island singularities. Singularities and differences of a CAO that are reflected in the people that fill this institution with joy. Thus, throughout the year, snails give colour and shape to many of the different works that they develop and that are also keen to spread throughout the community, remembering that difference makes societies wealthier.
On the Day of Persons with Disabilities, celebrated internationally and nationally, this December, they left the following message in a snail installation:
"The island, bathed by the Atlantic Ocean, remains firm and, after 18 million years, is awarded as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The strength comes from its entrails, from its roots, like the trees that grow and live in a particular territory that is a testimony of resilience. Nothing makes her falter. Nothing makes her give up. It is a test of Value, Overcoming, Mobilisation and Strength."
The Center for Occupational Activities (CAO) stands for Difference, this Difference. Genuine, intrinsic, lives beyond standardised islands. He lives and outdoes himself. Live and alert, in all branches of life, to Differences, in favour of Change, Inclusion, Healthy and Happy Communities. The difference is what unites us! The difference is Strength, Strength of Difference!
The Obô giant snail Action Plan
By Martina Panisi and Frazer Sinclair
The Obô Giant Snail Archachatina bicarinata is a large terrestrial mollusc that occurs only in the forests of São Tomé and Príncipe Islands in the Gulf of Guinea. It is a culturally significant species with a long history of harvesting for food and uses in traditional medicine. Once locally abundant, it has experienced a severe ongoing decline in both population and range during the past 30 years.
This document has been reviewed and endorsed by the Mid-Atlantic Island Invertebrate Specialist Group (MAIISG) - part of the Species Survival Commission (SSC) for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It is available to download via the MAIISG website: http://www.maiisg.com/resources/publications/"
first butterfly monitoring program in the Canary Islands and Macaronesia
By Yeray Monasterio
A team of researchers led by Yeray Monasterio, from the Zerynthia Association, The Canary Islands are an engaging environment for the study of Lepidoptera. The isolation makes this archipelago a laboratory for evolution, where 352 species of moths and 18 species of butterflies have been recorded to date.
Currently, there exist active transects for monitoring butterflies in Tenerife and Gran Canaria. Also on the island of La Palma a program has just started, with financial and logistical support from the regional government (Cabildo) of La Palma. Due to the health crisis at the moment, participation has been limited to rangers. In 2021 it is expected to be able to grow the project by holding informative workshops for the island's population that may be interested in participating.The work carried out by the ZERYNTHIA Association (the Spanish NGO that works in the study, conservation and divulgation of butterflies and moths) allowed to launch the first butterfly monitoring program in the Canary Islands and Macaronesia as a pioneering project. https://www.asociacion-zerynthia.org/seguimiento-diurnas
The uniqueness of the Canary species makes it necessary to study their population dynamics to understand their conservation status better and develop more effective conservation policies. Furthermore, many species are endemic, and we still know little about them.
ZERYNTHIA's work is also developed in other areas. In 2019 the endemic butterfly from Tenerife and La Palma Pieris cheiranthi was chosen "Butterfly of the Year" in Spain, an initiative of our NGO. (https://www.asociacion-zerynthia.org/MDA). Also, two new species of moths have also been published recently (Amicta gara and Amicta moneiba), among many other initiatives.
Unraveling a land snail radiation from the Madeiran Archipelago
By Marco Neiber
Researchers from Germany, Portugal, Italy, Austria and Hungary, among them the MAIISG members Dinarte Teixeira, Klaus Groh and Marco T. Neiber, studied the phylogeny and biogeography of the Geomitrini radiation (Gastropoda: Stylommatophora) from the Madeiran Archipelago in a recently published article in the journal Cladistics (Brozzo et al., 2020).
The Geomitrini is the most species‐rich group of land snails in the Madeiran Archipelago. The tribe is endemic to the Madeiran Archipelago and possibly the Azores (the records from the Canary Islands may be non‐autochthonous), most of them to the Madeiran Archipelago. Geomitrini has evolved various shell shapes, which is unusual among helicoid land snails (Fig. 1). There is also an exceptional variation in shell size among species, varying from just 3.5 mm to over 50 mm. Shell shapes range from flat, discoidal shells to globular shells and turreted shells (Fig. 1). The shell surface can be distinctly ornamented, including granulated, ribbed or even hirsute forms (Fig. 1).
The phylogeny of the group was reconstructed based on mitochondrial and nuclear genetic markers. The timing of diversification, the colonisation history of the islands of the Madeiran Archipelago and the evolution of characters reproductive organs were studied. The results of the phylogenetic analyses confirm the sister group relationship of Geomitrini and Cochlicellini, but also show that several previously accepted genus‐group taxa are not monophyletic. A new classification for the Geomitrini is proposed, including the description of two new genera, Domunculifex Brozzo, De Mattia, Harl & Neiber, 2020 and Testudodiscula Brozzo, De Mattia, Harl & Neiber, 2020.
The onset of diversification of Geomitrini was dated at 13 Ma, which largely coincides with the emergence of the present‐day islands of the Madeiran Archipelago. Furthermore, ancestral state estimation suggested independent losses of accessory organs of the reproductive system within the tribe and an ancestral area estimation suggested recurrent colonisations of Madeira (and the Ilhas Desertas) from the older island Porto Santo. The paper can be consulted using the following link: https://doi.org/10.1111/cla.12440
LIFE BEETLES (AZORES) - LIFE18 NAT/PT/000864
By Paulo A. V. Borges
Endemic arthropods are particularly diverse in the Azores archipelago. However, several threats are impacting the habitats of many rare species. Recently, started in Azores the Project LIFE-BEETLES (https://www.lifebeetlesazores.com/en/ ), aiming to improve the population size, distribution area and conservation status of tree beetle endemic species: Tarphius floresensis, Pseudanchomenus aptinoides and Trechus terrabravensis, which are classified as Critically Endangered or Endangered (by IUCN) due to habitat quality and quantity loss, as a result from change of land use and invasive alien species (IAS).
During the Summer 2020 the field work started in the islands of Pico, Terceira and Flores aiming to sample the main core habitats and evaluate its integrity.
the new maiisg logo
By Dinarte Teixeira
Dear friends, I am happy to announce that our group has a new logo!
Created by Xavier Teixeira, the MAIISG logo incorporates the images of representatives of invertebrates such as beetles, butterflies, snails and spiders, as well as the acronym of the Mid-Atlantic Islands Invertebrate Specialist Group. There are two versions of the logo, one which includes the webpage under the invertebrates images and other without it.
The logo can be downloaded at the MAIISG website (www.maiisg.com), having five different colours to choose from: yellow, black, green, ocean blue, orange and brown.
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