Mollusc of the Month

sloane1Pleurodonte sloaneana (Shuttleworth, 1861)


This is a goodly-sized species (to ca. 30 mm) in a family full of goodly-sized and above species. Originally included in the far flung family Camaenidae, it is now in the New World family Pleurodontidae. It is a land and occasionally a tree snail hailing from Jamaica. Unlike many Jamaican snails, this species is quite common and widespread on much of the island. The aperture (the opening to the shell) is armed with “teeth” – shelly constructions that presumably defend the snail from some predators.

slaone2sloane3sloane4The species was named in 1861 by Robert James Shuttleworth (1810-1874), an English physician, botanist, and shell enthusiast. He named the shell after his Irish fellow physician Sir Hans Sloane, 1st Baronette (1660-1753) (left). Sloane was the first physician in English history to be awarded a hereditary title. He was Royal Physician to King George II, President of the Royal Society (succeeding that slacker Sir Isaac Newton), and President of the Royal Society of Physicians. In 1687 he sailed to Jamaica on board the HMS Assistance as physician to Christopher Monck, the 2nd Duke of Albemarle, Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica. Sloane began an intense study of Jamaican plants and other biota. Perhaps he should have paid more attention to his day jobĀ  – Albemarle died the next year at age 35 and Sloane returned to England. But he brought back an enormous amount of material that became part of the core collection of the British Museum (along with William Bligh, but that’s another story).

In 1725 Sir Hans published his account of Jamaica in two volumes. This was a time when people knew how to title a book – none of this wussy, uninformative Freshwater Mussels of Ohio drivel – and make use of as many colors and fonts as humanly possible. And a Bible quote for good measure. You just don’t see Bible quotes on books anymore; probably an ACLU thing, like “Winter Celebration.”

HansĀ probably has affected you, dear reader, without your knowledge. While in the Wild West that is Jamaica, he found the locals drinking water mixed with a bitter tasting spice called cacao. He experimented and found it tasted much better mixed with milk. Returning to England, he brought the recipe with him. Thus, milk chocolate was born. Originally sold as a medical cure-all, it was eventually marketed by Cadbury. Note the early copyright at the bottom: “N.B. (nota bene). What is not signed with my Name and sealed with my Arms, is counterfeit.”