One, two, or several? How many lymnaeid genera are there?

Maxim V. Vinarski


The problem of generic classification of the basommatophoran family Lymnaeidae Rafinesque, 1815 is reviewed as well as recent theoretical approaches to genus delineation in the zoological systematics. Two main versions of the generic system of lymnaeid snails are: 1) bigeneric approach where all diversity of lymnaeid species is split between two genera; and 2) polygeneric approach suggesting that there are several (about twenty) genera in the family. The first version is presented in systems developed by Kruglov and Starobogatov [1993] and Jackiewicz [1993, 1998]. The second one is most commonly accepted in current Western European and Northern American literature [Burch, 1989; Falkner et al., 2001; Glцer, 2002]. However, there are no grounds to delimit lymnaeid genera objectively as the solution critically depends on what taxonomic methodology (cladistic or ‘evolutionary’ taxonomy) is followed by a particular author. The ‘evolutionary’ taxonomic methodology (sensu Mayr) is favorable to the bigeneric approach, whereas the cladistic (Hennigian) methodology leads to the separation of a series of taxa of generic rank within Lymnaeidae. It is impossible to prefer one approach to another ultimately since the problem of acceptability of paraphyletic taxa is still not resolved. The co-existence of two different generic systems of the same family is therefore inevitable. Different criteria of generic rank were critically discussed in perspective of their applicability to lymnaeid taxonomy. The morphological and ecological criteria as well as the criterion of hybridizability proved to be controversial and their use gives no key to select one of these approaches. The fourth criterion, that of monophyly, is more usable now, when the data of molecular phylogenetics are available. The recent advances in molecular taxonomy of pond snails have been reviewed briefly. It seems very reliable that the family consists of two large monophyletic clades of deep origin that differ from each other by chromosome number albeit there are no morphological characters to distinguish surely between representatives of these clades. It is impracticable to assign the generic rank for these clades due to their huge internal heterogeneity (morphological and ecological). The most reliable cladistic solution is to regard the two deep lymnaeid clades as separate subfamilies each containing a set of genera that are internally homogeneous enough to comply with most of criteria of the genus rank. The scheme of lymnaeid classification proposed here includes the nominotypical subfamily Lymnaeinae (type genus Lymnaea Lamarck, 1799) with haploid chromosome number equal to 18 (rarely 19), and the new one Radicinae subfam.n. (type genus Radix Montfort, 1810). The latter taxon embraces genera and species of Lymnaeidae characterized by 16 or (most often) 17 chromosome pairs. Radicinae is, most probably, derived clade as compared to Lymnaeinae, however, there are no morphological synapomorphies to support it. The bigeneric system is, however, still acceptable for those who uses generic criteria proposed by “evolutionary systematics” such as “principle of the same degree of difference” [Golikov, Starobogatov, 1988] and others.


Lymnaeidae; genus concept; subfamily; Radicinae


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