Mystery Cave Snails

Data: I am a recent graduate (MSc) from the School of Zoology, University of Tasmania – specialising in the biodiversity of cave fauna, particularly invertebrates, which includes a mix of epigean (surface living) and hypogean (cave limited) species.

During recent studies of caves in the northwest of Guangxi Province in southern China, I have located a number of aquatic and terrestrial (land) snail species, most of which I assume are epigean species that find caves as a “convenient” habitat conducive to their needs! The aquatic snails (Prosobranchia) have been determined as species of Assimineidae, Corbiculidae, and Pleuroceridae and the Pulmonata as Clausiliidae, Cyclophoridae, Planorbidae and Pupillidae. I am currently compiling a report on my studies, so I was hoping to get some more precise determinations at Genus level, possibly even to species if known.

The attached (below)photographs relate to pleurocerids ranging in length from around 9mm to 12 or 13mm, collected in October 2005 from the mouth of Lao Shu Dong (Tiger Cave) in Bama Xian (County), NW Guangxi Province (China) where they were found grazing on algae on a rock surface in shallow waters of a fast flowing incoming stream, approx. 40-50metres into the cave. On the basis of internet searching, I have narrowed this pleurocerid down to possibly being either one of two species: Paludomus sp. (Paludominae) and/ or Balanocochlis glandiformis (sub-family?).

Any assistance you can provide with determinations and confirmation of sub-family and/ or higher taxonomy would be much appreciated. (The photograph of the snails on the rock surface (below- "D") inside the cave entrance is the same snail as shown in the three (below "A, B & C") photomicroscopy images depicting a single snail: two different specimens. The “out of focus” blue squares in the background to other photomicroscopy images are 1mm x 1mm graph paper squares used as a scale to give some indication of the size of these snails.)

I would also be interested to get some generic determinations for some much smaller 2.5-3.5mm long snails (determined to be assimineids?) found more or less on the verge of the dark zone of the same cave in China, some 250-300m into the cave, where they were located clinging to the wet, stream-splashed cave wall, about 12-15cm above the water line (see attached ("E" -below) image showing four snails on 1mm x 1mm graph paper background). As above, I would be interested to get confirmation of the higher taxonomy, plus lower level sub-family and generic determinations if possible please.

Thanking you,

Kind Regards,

Arthur Clarke

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P8276764-LSD large aquatic snail (1005-39)-6

P8276753-LSD large aquatic snail (1005-39)-3

P8276772-LSD large aquatic snail (1005-39)-9

2-PA2142678A-Grazing aquatic snails under water ripples in LSD-4A

3-P8246377-Tiny Lao Shu Dong assimineid aquatic snails 1 (1005-33)-2A






  • The snails (as shown in your Figures A to D) are species of Semisulcospira sp.

  • ?? Paludomus sp.,

  • I have also had an email from someone who tells me that there are believed to be around 100 known but undescribed species of assimineids from China or S.E. Asia including several new genera, so perhaps there is very little hope of getting these identified even to genus based on the photographs alone. ...Arthur Clarke


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