Hirsute Hermaphrodite Hobo from Eurasia working his/her way through Cornell

By Harry G. Lee

    Awaiting the airport shuttle vehicle while concluding a short stay at the La Tourelle Inn on the outskirts of Ithaca, New York, I decided to take a look around a half-acre artificial "fishing pond" on the spacious premises. The setting was a picturesque pasture-like hillside overlooking Cornell University and Lake Cayuga and to the north and northwest. Although overcast, the temperature was mild for a mid-November day; Ithaca had yet to receive more than token snowfall this autumn.

    Ignoring the few gawkers, I nosed around the pond's margins and easily found a fair number of living landsnails on the lawn, especially under hewn larger weeds. There were four species - Novisuccinea ovata (Say, 1817), Cochlicopa lubrica (Müller, 1774), a small nearly black slug, and, most abundantly, a quarter-inch globose snail I thought to be a Slit-mouth (Stenotrema)* of some sort because of its having Pussy-willow-bud-like texture. I popped the snails into an evacuated (and thoroughly-rinsed) shampoo sampler supplied by the inn, pocketed the collection, and shuttled to the Ithaca Airport. While languishing in La Guardia, I couldn't resist the urge to retrieve the "collecting vial" and inspected the shells more closely. I noticed that a densely hirsute Stenotrema-like periostracum accounted for the shell's unusual surface but no evidence of the thickened lip and constricted aperture that characterizes that North American genus. After some reflection, and prompted by a flicker of déjà-vu, my mind finally broke loose from the box, and I considered this critter might be a non-native species.

Trichia hispida (Linnaeus, 1758)    On arrival in Jacksonville that night, despite temporary dismay with the Jaguars' last minute loss to the Titans, I went to microscope, collection, and books to sort out the identity of this probable vagabond. Conclusion: I had picked up my second batch (the first was in ME on my 45th birthday) of Hairy Helicellid, a species native to northwest Europe east through northern Asia, where it reaches the Amur River. The scientific cognomen is Trichia hispida (Linnaeus, 1758) (see first note at bottom of page) [literally: the Hairy (Latin), Hairy (Greek) Snail], and its taxonomy goes like this: Mollusca: Gastropoda: Stylommatophora: Pulmonata: Helicoidea: Hygromiidae: Hygromiinae. Since I wondered how far and how long it had traveled in North America, I dug further into my library and found no mention of the species in a host of state and regional surveys including NH, CT, NY, NJ, OH, IN, IL, MI, and WI. Nonetheless, I found a few references and, using the Internet (including good advice from my friends on the Conch-L list-serve), patched together the following summary over about a ten day period:

NEWFOUNDLAND: "Scattered localities around the province" (Newfoundland Mus.; Ron Noseworthy, pers. comm. 11/28/04)
NOVA SCOTIA. Halifax. (T. Bland! Binney, 1878); Pictou Co., Granton (Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ); Dundee, 1974); Wolfville (Moore, 1962); Victoria; Cape Breton Co.; Inverness Co. (Macmillan, 1953)
PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND. Charlottetown (B. Long! 1912; Pilsbry, 1939)
NEW BRUNSWICK. (MCZ; Dundee, 1974)
QUEBEC. Montreal (Cockerell, 1889); Quebec City (La Roque, 1940)
ONTARIO. Ottawa (La Roque, 1940); Drift, Kemptville Creek (Wayne Grimm! Fred Schueler pers. comm. 12/15/97); "Scattered but widely distributed on roadsides, towns, and gardens throughout the Mixedwood Plain ecozone" (Grimm, 2004; linked below)

MAINE: Knox Co., Rockland and Thomaston (Lermond, 1908).; Hancock Co., Stonington (H. G. Lee! 8/2/85; Lee Coll.); [Not recorded for ME by Morse (1864)]
MASSACHUSETTS. Martha's Vineyard, near Gay Head (J. H. Thomson, 1885; not collected by Thomson)
VERMONT. Washington Co., Montpelier (before 6/94; University of Florida (UF) 222351)
NEW JERSEY. Atlantic Co., Atlantic City (before 6/94; UF 222607)
NEW YORK. Schoharie Co., 1.4 miles S of Sharon (L. Hubricht! 1958; Field Museum of Natural History (FMNH) 78676); 3.6 mi NW of Richmondville (L. Hubricht! 1981; FMNH 267849; 267850); Tompkins Co., Taughannock Falls (H. J. Hopman! 10/81; Hopman, 1982)
ILLINOIS.** Cook Co., Glencoe, Chicago Botanic Garden (J. Gerber! 2001; FMNH uncatalogued); Cook Co., along Skokie River, 0.25 miles west of Willow Road Dam (J. Slapcinsky! before 12/04; UF 294176).
ALABAMA. Mobile Co., Mobile (before 11/97; UF 97804; identification confirmed in litt. J. Slapcinsky 12/1/04)

** ILLINOIS. Will Co., Lillycache, near Joliet (E. E. Hand! 1911; FMNH 65020) Stenotrema sp. misidentified as T. hispida on collection database fide J. Gerber, 11/29/04 in litt. 10/28/04.

    Among the special resources on the Internet were an excellent report on the  landsnail fauna of the Mixedwood Plain Ecozone of Ontario and Quebec by Wayne Grimm, images of living snails at http://www.biopix.dk/Photo.asp?Language=da&PhotoId=14389, and the searchable databases of the Florida Museum of Natural History (Gainesville) and Field Museum of Natural History (Chicago).

    Thus "NEW YORK: 1 mi. south Ithaca College, Ithaca (H. Lee! 11/21/04; Lee Coll.; Carnegie Museum [CM 70366])" can be added to the apparently expanding range of this little snail, whose peregrinations seem to have been less extensive (or otherwise less noticed) in our country than across the eastern portion of our northern neighbor. Of special interest is the record by Dr. Hopman from Taughannock Falls, near the opposite end of Lake Cayuga, at a time when the Dutch physics professor found no T. hispida in Ithaca.  Not unlikely the snail has extended its range locally in the intervening 23 years, and human agency may well be a factor.
How much further it has spread is an open question, but we can be certain of one thing - we shouldn't underestimate its potential to girdle the continent as it nearly has in its native Eurasia, wherein natural enemies are more likely encountered. Consider this: as of thirty years ago, Trichia hispida had been intercepted by the U. S. Department of Agriculture in 13 states and the District of Columbia hitchhiking on 33 species of plants, from shamrock to cauliflower to a walnut log (as well as military cargo) originating in 17 countries from Europe to Iran to Australia (Dundee, 1974).

Acknowledgements: I thank Jochen Gerber (FMNH) and John Slapcinsky (FLMNH) for checking records in their respective collections as well as Tim Pearce (CM) for solicitation of voucher material. Marien Faber, Richie Goldberg, Lubos Kolouch, Ron Noseworthy, Aydin Örstan, Jody Thompson, and Tom Watters of the Conchologists of America Listserver (Conch-L) made helpful suggestions.

Literature cited [the three papers "not seen" were cited by Dundee, 1974]:
Binney, W. G., 1878. Terrestrial Mollusks 5. Bulletin Mus. Comp. Zool. 4: 345. [not seen].
Cockerell, T. D. A., 1889. Notes on the variation of certain Mollusca introduced from Europe. The Nautilus 3(8): 86-90. Dec.
Dundee, D., S., 1974. Catalog of introduced mollusks of eastern North America (north of Mexico). Sterkiana 55: 1-37. Sept.
Hopman, H.J., 1982. De eerste schreden. Correspondentieblad van de Nederlandse Malacologische Vereniging 208: 1293-1299. Sept.
La Roque, A., Checklist of Canadian Mollusca Parts 1-3: 1-359. [manuscript cited by Dundee, 1974; not seen].
Lermond, N. W., 1908. Hygromia hispida (L.) in Maine. The Nautilus 21(10): 109. Feb.
Macmillan, G. K., 1953. Preliminary survey of land and freshwater Gastropoda of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Nova Scotian Inst. Sci. 23(4): 398-408. [not seen].
Moore, R. G., 1962. Land Mollusca in the vicinity of Wolfville, Nova Scotia. Nova Scotian Inst. Sci. 25(3): 187-196. [not seen]
Morse, E. S., 1864. Observations on the terrestrial pulmonifera of Maine... Jour. Portland Soc. Nat. Hist. 1(1): 1-63 + 10 pls.
Pilsbry, H. A., 1939 Land Mollusca of North America north of Mexico vol I part 1 part 2. xvii + pp 1-573 + ix. Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia.
Thomson, J. H., 1885. Journal of Conchology 4: 372.

Note (6/18/2008): Trichia Hartmann, 1840, of which this is the type species by subsequent designation (Herrmannsen, 1849), is actually a junior homonym of the crustacean genus Trichia De Haan, 1839. In 2004 a petition for the conservation of the Hartmann nomen was rejected by the International Commission for Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN), and the earlier Trochulus Chemnitz, 1786, was considered an objective synonym and placed on the Official List of Generic Names. [Bull. Z. N. 61(3): Opinion 2079 (Case 2926) 30 Sept. Thus the vagabond is more properly referred to as Trochulus hispidus.

*Note (12/20/09): In his description of Helix hirsuta, Thomas Say (1817: 17) made comparison to Trochulus hispidus (then Helix hispida). Say's species was ultimately placed in Stenotrema Rafinesque, 1819, in which genus, although not the type species, it is the first described. Thus I was not the first to appreciate the similarity between the two convergent taxa.
Say, T., 1817. Descriptions of seven species of American fresh water and land shells, not noticed in the systems. Journal of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 1(1): 13-16. May