Daedalochila auriculata (Say, 1818) Ocala Liptooth Topotype Locality

St. Johns County, Florida

Daedalochila auriculata (Say, 1818) Binney, 1857: pl. 47, fig. 1    On April 6, 2007 Ed Cavin and I (Harry Lee) set out to find an authentic specimen of the type species of Daedalochila. We had a very specific quarry in the cross-hairs - the snail that America's first native-born conchologist named Polygyra auriculata, the Ocala Liptooth. Say (1818: 276) wrote: "This curious species we found near St. Augustine, East Florida, in a moist situation. They were observed in considerable numbers ..." Say never illustrated his snail, but an early engraving (Binney, 1857: pl. 47, fig. 1 - see image, left) was consulted. The text and figure gave us a bit of reassurance for the feasibility of our mission, but, after nearly 200 years, we expected to encounter a considerable loss of suitable habitat and other environmental degradation. The expedition certainly wasn't a pre-ordained slam-dunk. To improve our chances of success, a closer look at the history of Say's discovery was in order.

    In the autumn of 1817 Say set sail from Philadelphia, where, at age 40 he was one of the members of the nascent Academy of Natural Sciences (ANSP), only in its fifth year of existence. In the company of naturalists William Maclure, George Ord, and Titian R. Peale he made his way to Charleston and Savannah, where the group chartered a 30 ton sloop, which eventually took them into the St. Johns River (Lee, 1976). On Jan. 30, 1818, Say wrote from St. Mary's, Georgia: "... we shall be off in about three or four days for the promised land, a portion of which is now in sight. Our plan is to ascend as far as convenient the River St. Johns, pursuing pretty much the track of Bartram, my excellent and ingenious relative" (Weiss and Ziegler, 1931: 55-56). [Pioneer Florida naturalist William Bartram was Say's great uncle and William's father, John, was his enate great grandfather.] Later Say wrote "This noble river we ascended as far a Picolata, an old Spanish fortress now in ruins, about 100 miles [a considerable, but unintentional exaggeration] from its mouth ... From Picolata we crossed the country on foot to St. Augustine" (Weiss and Ziegler, 1931: 58; also see the plaque shown below, which includes a tribute to late Jacksonville Shell Club veteran member Lorraine Ridge).

    That was probably in late Feb. or March, 1818. Fast Forward to April, 2007 and look, as we did, at another historical plaque (illustrated below) positioned at the SE corner of the intersection of SR 13 (The Bartram Trail, blazed by Say's excellent and ingenious relative) and the western terminus of CR 208. Judging from Say's narrative and the plaque's indication, it seems a near certainty that the latter highway follows the course of the carriage road taken by Thomas Say and his co-expeditioners from Picolata to St. Augustine. We drove all twenty miles of CR 208 to the heart of the nation's oldest city. The road passes through potato fields, other agricultural land, pine flatwoods, low deciduous forest, and swampland. The last few miles are heavily developed, with commercial and residential real estate dominating the landscape.

    Our collecting strategy was to respectfully place ourselves in the shoes of Say, Maclure, Ord, and Peale. "Near St. Augustine" is a bit imprecise, but it indicates that the snail was not taken in the city that the expeditioners knew. That left the stretch of 208 from the Old City to Picolata. Accordingly we stopped the car at fairly regular intervals along CR 208, debarking at whenever "a moist situation" which seemed to have promise was seen. In the course of three hours no less than ten stations were made. At one station some dead shells were found (along with a well-nourished Pygmy Rattlesnake), but none of the other stops produced any specimens (of D. auriculata that is; a Water Moccasin was encountered, however). In near exasperation, we returned to the one productive spot and, after nearly an hour of searching - without re-encountering the rattlesnake - a living specimen of the Ocala Liptooth was found in the grassy swale bank along the road. Measuring a little over a half-inch, this snail is included, along with a dozen empty shells of its species, in the accompanying montage of illustrations. We believe these shells qualify as topotypes (specimens collected in the same place of the type lot), which imparts a certain authenticity to their identity. Furthermore, they are dead ringers for the lectotype, which Say brought back to Philadelphia in the Spring of 1818 (ANSP 57066a; plate 4; Pilsbry, 1940: fig. 384-1). Also see: Compendium of Daedalochila type material - a pictorial gallery (page one)

    Among historic experiences in field biology, this Spring, 2007 expedition to a place less than an hour distant may be a bit on the mundane side, but to the two of us it was a triumph. Doing our homework, braving the hazards of snake envenomation, and exercising a modicum of tenacity paid off. A piece of Thomas Say's legacy is reawakened after nearly two centuries of quiet repose, and we 21st century "pioneers" experienced the hunt, with all its passion and suspense, while executing a well-reasoned game plan.

Binney, W. G.  1858. The complete writings of Thomas Say on the conchology of the United States. H. Bailliere Co., New York. 1- 252 + 75 plates.
Binney, A. [ed. A. A. Gould], 1857. The terrestrial air-breathing mollusks of the United States and the adjacent territories of North America. vol. 3. Little Brown, Boston. pp. 6-40 + 84 pls.
Lee, H. G., 1976. Thomas Say America's first malacologist. Shell-O-Gram 17(11): 1-3. November.
Pilsbry, H. A., 1938. The type of Polygyra Say. The Nautilus 52(1): 22-24. July.
Pilsbry, H. A., 1940. Land Mollusca of North America north of Mexico vol I part 2. Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia. vi + 575-994 + ix. Aug. 1.
Say, T., 1818. Descriptions of land and freshwater shells of the United States (cont'd). Journal of the Academy of Natural Sciences 1: 276. May. [not seen; reprinted version in Binney, 1858 consulted; vide supra]
Weiss, H. B. and G. M. Ziegler, 1931. Thomas Say Early American naturalist. Charles Thomas, Baltimore. xiv + 1-260 + 26 pls.

Bartram Trail Historical Marker

Picolata Historical Marker

Bartram Trail Historical Marker Picolata Historical Marker

Daedalochila auriculata Habitat Along CR 208 East Of Picolata

Daedalochila auriculata Habitat Along CR 208 East Of Picolata (10/8/2008)

Daedalochila auriculata Habitat East Of Picolata

Daedalochila auriculata Habitat East Of Picolata


Page Two