Malacology staff, Dr. Norine W. Yeung (Researcher) and Jaynee R. Kim (Research Assistant), and Malacology affiliates, Dr. Kenneth A. Hayes and Dr. Robert H. Cowie, published a manuscript in Pacific Science (November 2016) that identified and assessed the distribution of introduced slugs (Veronicellidae) in the Hawaiian and Samoan Islands.
Non-native land snails are threatening and replacing many of our native species in Hawaii and are agricultural and horticultural pests as well as vectors of parasites such as the rat lungworm, Angiostrongylus cantonensis. There are no native slugs in Hawaii, and it is important to understand how these non-native species impact our native fauna and flora. Not only could they be affecting the native Hawaiian tree snails, they could also be impacting the threatened native snails that live in our leaf litter.
To find out how these non-native species affect our native ecosystems, we first need to identify what they are. Slugs in the Veronicellidae family are difficult to distinguish because body color and pattern differ so much within a species. Specimens from the Bishop Museum collection and recent surveys done throughout the Hawaiian and Samoan Islands were identified by examining reproductive structures and comparing DNA sequences. Two species, Laevicaulis alte and Veronicella cubensis are present on all six of the largest Hawaiian Islands, and Sarasinula plebeia was found at one location on Oahu. Specimens from American Samoa were identified as V. cubensis, Semperula wallacei, Laevicaulis sp., L. alte and S. plebeia. All specimens from independent Samoa were S. wallacei.
Also one of our plates made it as a cover for the online issue! Snails rock…uhh glide!
Photographs and drawings of three veronicellid species dissected to show structures used to distinguish them. 1: Veronicella cubensis (representative specimen from Hawai‘i); 2: Laevicaulis alte (representative specimen from Hawai‘i); 3: Sarasinula plebeia [no live specimen was available for dissection; this illustration is of the “plesiotype” of Thomé (1971) in the Muséum nationale d’Histoire naturelle, Paris, MNHN 21307]. Key reproductive structures that differ among the species: a, penis; b, digitiform gland papilla; c, digitiform tubules.