Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Taxon of the Day: Dillwynella voightae

Dillwynella voightae

Today's Taxon of the Day has been produced by Thomas Kunze, he writes:

Dillwynella voightae Kunze, 2011 is a small snail from the marine gastropod family Skeneidae and is in the Catalogue of Life care of WoRMS Mollusca database. The shell is whitish, porcelain-like, with not much sculpture and has a maximum diameter of only 5.8 mm. It lives at a depth of around 600 meters on sunken wood. Its diet includes both wood fiber and bacteria that lives on the wood. It is named in honour of Dr. Janet R. Voight, who on a research expedition collected 18 specimens from a piece of wood dredged from the ocean floor. This type location, off of the coast of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico, is the only place it has so far been found.

Whale fall, sunken wood, algae, fish bones, tortoiseshells or squid jaws form a special habitat that is widespread in oceans. Pieces of wood or complete trees are transported into the sea and then at some point sink. In the deep parts of the ocean nutrients are rare and a whole range of living things like bacteria, snails and bivalves will settle on the fallen organic matter and slowly biodegrade them.

Empty shell
As you will see in the author string, this species was described by me. You might ask how are species found and described nowadays? Well in this particular case, I was visiting the Field Museum in Chicago looking for members of the Skeneidae family for my PhD, and while looking through their collection I found a jar labelled Dillwynella sp. I knew this meant that the museum had done a preliminary assessment of family, but as yet, had not identified the specimens down to species level. As is procedure when involved in scientific research, I was able to get 4 of the 18 specimens shipped from the US to Sweden were I was working at the time. After close examination it became obvious to me that this specimen was rather different to all other known species of Dillwynella and so a description of a new species seemed appropriate and was published in 2011 in the Nautilus.

There is only one other species of Dillwynella known from the Atlantic, D. modesta (Dall, 1889) with the other 7 known species found off the coast of New Zealand and Japan. All marine gastropods (like slugs, snails, winkles, tingles and so on) are contributed by WoRMS Mollusca to the Catalogue of Life.

CoL Annual Checklist: Dillwynella voightae
CoL contributor: WoRMS Mollusca
Image copyright: T Kunze

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