In 1923 W.L. Abbott collected a fragment of a land snail shell in the far-flung mountains of the Dominican Republic (DR) at a remote place called Polo*. The snail was named in 1946 Kisslingia poloensis by Paul Bartsch, the expert on the group at the time. It was not seen again for 91 years, when a collector found two specimens, after hours of looking, near the namesake village. This group of land snails, the Annulariidae, is of great interest to me, and as luck would have it, I was going to the DR in June. With my trusty colleagues we made a detour to downtown Polo. Polo can only be reached by a dirt road that winds up the mountain and then dead-ends at the village. We began looking in a roadside cut and after a long, hot, scorpion-filled, goat-laden, cacti-infested, steamy length of time we had found exactly – none. Two young gentlemen happened by and we “hired” them to help look. Rather embarrassingly, within minutes they had found two. We decided to head uphill for metropolitan Polo and promised to recompense them on the way back down. Less than a half-hour later we returned to find that an entire village had been enlisted and the kids had, probably without breaking a sweat, found 50. 50!
Pesos and snails changed hands. Everyone was happy. I now have potential DNA from this obviously seldom seen snail for comparative work on the family. Seldom seen by malacologists anyway. The kids knew exactly where to find them, probably seeing them on a daily basis. All our fancy “book lernin” was no match for the real experts, the young naturalists of Polo.
Our crew of expert collectors. Note the bag of snails.
A free-range, ultra-rare Kisslingia poloensis Bartsch, 1946.
Kisslingia poloensis Bartsch, 1946
* Somewhat confusingly there is a village called Polo Magnetico in the same area. It is renowned as one of those physics-defying places where balls apparently roll uphill. Alas, this phenomenon did not affect our van, which we almost had to push to the top.
Pleurodonte 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.
The 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 job – 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.”
Hans 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.”