The Partulidae of French Polynesia

    The family Partulidae Pilsbry, 1900 is deployed throughout the high islands of south and western Oceania as well as New Guinea. Its metropolis is in French Polynesia, particularly the Society Islands. Here the nominotypical subgenus of Partula Férussac, 1819, with over 50 species, is centered. Most P. (Partula) species are limited to a single island even though several inter-island distances are rather small. Although predominantly arboreal, there are several terrestrial species. Of the four genera (eleven subgenera) in the family, those of this subgenus distinguish themselves with a variety of color patterns, more conspicuous in the tree-dwelling species. Most islands have more than a single species, and ecological as well as geographical forces seem to have driven their evolution. The steep terrain isolates the many deep valleys, in which the snails prosper. Besides allowing divergence of species, such topographic barriers have allowed infraspecific variation (forms and subspecies) to evolve in taxa distributed over relatively wide areas with varying landscape. Examples of this include P. (P.) otaheitana (Bruguière, 1792) [figs. 22-27 below] on Tahiti and P. (P.) rosea [figs. 31-32] on Huahine.

    The type, and first-named, species of Partula is Limax faba Martyn, 1784 (2: pl. 67), described from shells brought home to England under the command of Captain James Cook (1728-1779), who visited Raiatea aboard HMS Endeavour in July, 1769 on the first of his three voyages. Because the Universal Conchologist of Thomas Martyn (1735-1825) was not a consistently binominal work, the International Commission for Zoological Nomenclature exercised its plenary powers (ICZN, 1957) to declare most of its names unavailable for the purposes of taxonomic nomenclature [nine well-known Zealand marine gastropod species, also the product of Cook's explorations, were spared suppression View The Nine Species]. Fortunately Gmelin (1791: 3623) had already validated the name, as Helix faba [fig. 10 below], which, albeit mislocalized in Tahiti, nonetheless limited nomenclatorial confusion. By the next year, Cook material somehow reached the French malacologist Jean Guillaume Bruguière (1749-1798)
who named the "fluviatile" Bulimus otaheitanus [see <>]. Partula were among the myriad treasures brought home early the next century by conchologist-explorer, Hugh Cuming (1791-1865). Known to many as "The Prince of Shell Collectors," he,  in the tradition of countryman Cook, visited French Polynesia in 1827-1828 on his first of his three voyages of exploration in the Pacific. Cuming's Partula species were named by Englishmen William John Broderip and Lovell Reeve as well as Ludwig (Louis) Pfeiffer in Germany. Only a few years thereafter the great epiphany in Partula was wrought by the labors of Americans Andrew Garrett (1823-1887) and William Harper Pease (1824-1871). These halcyon years are discussed in another web feature. See:  Partulid snails, their collectors, and a prodigious dynasty of French Naturalists

The Partulidae of French Polynesia

French Polynesian Partulidae, principally the Society Islands. Two genera, thirty-one ( 31) species, plus forms and subspecies arranged alphabetically: locality by island.*

Row one:  1.
Samoana attenuata (Pease, 1864): *Raiatea; 2. Partula auriculata Broderip, 1832: Raiatea; 3. P. bilineata Pease, 1866: Tahaa; 4. P. callifera L. Pfeiffer, 1856: Raiatea; 5. P. citrina Pease 1866: Raiatea; 6. P. crassilabris Pease, 1866: Raiatea.

Row two:  7. P. dentifera L. Pfeiffer, 1852: Raiatea; 8. P. dubia Garrett, 1884: Tahiti; 9. P. elongata Pease, 1864: Moorea; 10. P. faba (Gmelin, 1791): Raiatea; 11. P. fusca Pease, 1866: Raiatea; 12. P. garretti Pease, 1871: Raiatea.

Row three: 13. P. hebe (L. Pfeiffer, 1846): Raiatea;
14. P. hyalina Broderip, 1832: *Tahiti; 15. P. imperforata Broderip, 1832: Raiatea; 16.
 Samoana (Marquesana) inflata (Reeve, 1842): Nuka Hiva, Marquesas; 17. P. lugubris Pease, 1864: Raiatea; 18. P. lutea Lesson, 1831: Bora Bora.

Row four: 19. P. navigatoria (L. Pfeiffer, 1846): Raiatea; 20. P. nodosa L. Pfeiffer, 1851: Tahiti; 21. P. nucleola Garrett, 1884: Moorea; 22. P. otaheitana otaheitana (Bruguière, 1892): Tahiti; 23. P. o. affinis Pease, 1867: Tahiti; 24. P. o. lignaria Pease, 1864 solid brown: Tahiti; 25. P. o. lignaria Pease, 1864 banded: Tahiti.

Row five:  26. P. o. rubescens Reeve, 1850: Tahiti; 27. P. o. sinistrorsa Garrett, 1884: Tahiti; 28. P. planilabrum Pease, 1864: Tahaa;
29. P. radiata Garrett, 1884: Raiatea; 30. P. rosea Broderip, 1832 f. zonata Pilsbry, 1909:
Huahine; 31. P. rosea Broderip, 1832 f. cognata Garrett, 1884: Huahine.

Row six:  32. P. simplaria Morelet, 1853:
Huahine; 33. P. suturalis L. Pfeiffer, 1855: Moorea; 34. P. taeniata Mørch, 1850: Moorea; 35. P. thalia Garrett. 1884: Raiatea; 36. P. umbilicata Pease, 1866: Tahaa; 37. P. varia Broderip, 1832: Huahine.

* indicates occurrence on at least one other island.

Literature cited:

[Gmelin, J.F.] Linné, C. a, 1791. Systema naturae 13th edition, volume 1, part 6: Vermes. Emanual Beer, Leipzig. Pp. 3021-3909. [Vermes testacea 3202-3748]. <>.

Bruguière, J.G. [ed.] and C.H. Hwass, 1792. Encyclopédie méthodique. Histoire naturelle des vers. Tome première partie 2. Panckoucke, Paris. Pp. 345-757. 13 Feb. <>.

ICZN, 1957. Opinion 479. Opinions of the International Commission for Zoological Nomenclature 16: 365-456. September 3.

Martyn, T., 1784-87. The universal conchologist, exhibiting the figure of every known shell... drawn... and painted... with a new systematic arrangement, etc. 4 vols. Martyn, London. 27 pp., 161 pls. A French-English edition with all the 80 plates of the original volumes 1 and 2 (1784) is posted on-line at <>

Classic original figures of French Polynesian Partula species.
Classic original figures of French Polynesian Partula species.

L to R: Limax faba from Thomas Martyn (1784: pl. 67, middle two figures, of four, edited just for juxtaposition), Partula inflata and P. rubescens from Lovell Augustus Reeve (1850: plate 1, fig 4a; plate 3, fig. 12 respectively), P. stenostoma and P. suturalis from Ludwig (Louis) Pfeiffer (1856: pl. 17, figs. 17, 18 respectively).

Dall, W.H., 1906. Thomas Martyn and the Universal Conchologist. Proceedings of the United States National Museum 29: 415-432.

Dall, W.H., 1908. Supplementary noted on Martyn's Universal Conchologist. Proceedings of the United States National Museum 33: 185-192.

Johnson, R.I., 1969. Pfeiffer’s Novitates Conchologicae, Series I, Land Mollusca, 1854–1879, and Dunker’s Novitates Conchologicae, Series II, Marine Mollusca, 1862–1882. A complete collation. Journal of the Society for the Bibliography of Natural History 5(3): 236–239. October.

Martyn, T., 1784-87. The universal conchologist, exhibiting the figure of every known shell... drawn... and painted... with a new systematic arrangement, etc. 4 vols. Martyn, London. 27 pp., 161 pls. [collation per Dall, 1906, 1908]. A French-English edition with all the 80 plates of the original volumes 1 and 2 (1784), and from which the above images are taken, is posted on-line at <>

Pfeiffer L., 1854-1860. Novitates Conchologicae. Series Prima. Mollusca Extramarina Beschreibung und Abbildung neuer oder kritischer Land-und Süsswasser-Mollusken 1. Theodor Fischer, Cassel. 1-138 pp + pls. 1-36 [issued in twelve parts 1854 to May, 1860; [full collation by Johnson, 1969]

Pilsbry, H.A., 1908-10. Manual of Conchology (second series). 20. Caecilioides, Glessula, Partulidae; index to volumes 16-20. Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia. vii i+ 1-336 + 43 pls. Nov. 19 to Feb.

Reeve, L.A., 1850 Monograph of the genus Partula. Conchologia Iconica 6: 9 pp, 4 pls. May.