Cuban Painted Snail is Mollusk of Year 2022

by johnsmith

There were five finalists — three snails, one mussel and a tusk shell or scaphopod — in the Mollusk of the Year 2022 competition, an international public vote led by the Senckenberg Nature Research Society, the LOEWE Centre for Translational Biodiversity Genomics and the Worldwide Society for Mollusc Research. The Cuban painted snail (Polymita picta) won with a staggering 10,092 votes, taking 62% of the total votes overall. As a reward for winning, the species’ genome will now be sequenced at the LOEWE Centre.

The Cuban painted snail (Polymita picta). Image credit: Adrián González Guillén.

The Cuban painted snail (Polymita picta). Image credit: Adrián González Guillén.

The Cuban painted snail is a species of large, air-breathing land snail in the gastropod mollusk family Helminthoglyptidae.

This species lives mainly in coastal habitats in subtropical forests and is endemic to eastern Cuba.

Its geographic range is limited to the territories in the present-day municipalities of Baracoa and Maisí in Guantánamo, and to some of the adjacent areas in the neighboring province of Holguín.

The current range is estimated at 2,215 km2, which represents a decrease of 6.35 % of its original range.

The Cuban painted snail is characterized by its bulbous and sometimes slightly high-spired shell; strong but not very thick shell walls, few whorls — around four. Size may vary, but maximum diameter is generally between 22 and 30 mm.

Shells of this species display a wide variety of colors. The coloring (black, pink, iodine, ochre) of the subsutural band and the columellar spot, which may be interrupted, varies in the subspecies.

The Cuban painted snail has been nominated for the title ‘Mollusk of the Year 2022’ by Professor Bernardo Reyes-Tur from the Universidad de Oriente, Cuba.

During the two-and-a-half-week competition, a total of 16,388 votes were cast from 148 countries.

The Cuban painted snail prevailed with 10,092 votes and thus 62% against the four other species standing for election: the sea butterfly (Cymbulia peronii) came in second with 2,773 votes, followed by the naval shipworm (Teredo navalis) with 1,643 votes; the barge-foot (Fustiaria rubescens) received 1,115 votes, and the sediment snail (Telescopium telescopium) received 765 votes.

“Thanks to everyone who voted,” said University of Nottingham’s Professor Angus Davison.

“I’m so delighted that this most beautiful snail has been crowned ‘Mollusk of the Year 2022’.”

“Snails don’t always get the attention that they deserve, even though they are important ecologically and as mollusks are part of one of the most diverse groups of animals on Earth.”

“The prize — an assembled whole genome sequence — will enable us to begin research on understanding the snail’s biology.”

“Unfortunately, Cuban painted snails are at risk because of habitat loss, and illegal trade to shell collectors and tourists.”

“The prestige of the win will draw attention and give further impetus to conservation efforts.”

“When I found out that Polymita had won with over 10,000 votes, I felt so grateful to the people who helped us win, both in Cuba and overseas,” Professor Reyes-Tur said.

“Our research team is not only happy, but so grateful to each person who voted.”

“We hope that the genome sequencing of the Cuban painted snail will benefit the conservation of these amazing snails and the other nearly 1,400 Cuban land snail species.”

“We are pleased that the Cuban painted snail was selected,” said Dr. Carola Greve, a resarcher at the LOEWE Centre.

“Its genome will be able to provide us with important information about the genetic basis of the color variations of its shell.”

“In the case of mollusks, there are so far only a few species whose genome has been completely sequenced — and this despite the fact that they form the second largest animal phylum after arthropods.”

“When we initiated the competition at the end of 2020, our goal was to raise awareness of molluscs and their enormous biodiversity,” said Professor Julia Sigwart, section head of the Department of Malacology at the Senckenberg Research Institute and the Natural History Museum Frankfurt.

“We are now well on the way to achieving this. We would especially like to thank those researchers and mollusk lovers who nominated so many special and beautiful species.”

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