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Global diversity of gastropods (Gastropoda; Mollusca) in freshwater

Authors:Ellen E. Strong, Olivier Gargominy, Winston F. Ponder and Philippe Bouchet

Abstract:The world’s gastropod fauna from continental waters comprises ∼4,000 valid described species and a minimum of 33–38 independent lineages of Recent Neritimorpha, Caenogastropoda and Heterobranchia (including the Pulmonata). The caenogastropod component dominates in terms of species richness and diversity of morphology, physiology, life and reproductive modes and has produced several highly speciose endemic radiations. Ancient oligotrophic lakes (e.g., Baikal, Ohrid, Tanganyika) are key hotspots of gastropod diversity; also noteworthy are a number of lower river basins (e.g., Congo, Mekong, Mobile Bay). But unlike many other invertebrates, small streams, springs and groundwater systems have produced the most speciose associations of freshwater gastropods. Despite their ecological importance in many aquatic ecosystems, understanding of even their systematics is discouragingly incomplete. The world’s freshwater gastropod fauna faces unprecedented threats from habitat loss and degradation and introduced fishes and other pests. Unsustainable use of ground water, landscape modification and stock damage are destroying many streams and springs in rural/pastoral areas, and pose the most significant threats to the large diversity of narrow range endemics in springs and ground water. Despite comprising only ∼5% of the world’s gastropod fauna, freshwater gastropods account for ∼20% of recorded mollusc extinctions. However, the status of the great majority of taxa is unknown, a situation that is exacerbated by a lack of experts and critical baseline data relating to distribution, abundance, basic life history, physiology, morphology and diet. Thus, the already considerable magnitude of extinction and high levels of threat indicated by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is certainly a significant underestimate.

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