FWGNA > Species Accounts > Hydrobiidae > Fontigens cryptica
Fontigens cryptica (Hubricht 1963)

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> Habitat & Distribution

Fontigens cryptica populations seem to be obligately restricted to interstitial spaces in the hyporheic zones of rivers in the interior karstlands.  The species was initially described by Hubricht (1963) from underneath stones at the mouth of a spring on a bluff overlooking The Ohio River in southern Indiana.  It has not been seen there since, although J. J. Lewis (pers. comm.) has recovered additional specimens from two other sites in Indiana - both subterranean.  In 2019 F. cryptica was discovered by Ms. Lori Schroeder and colleagues at a springhead in the Bernheim Research Forest of central Kentucky.  See my essays of 17July17, 6Aug17, 6Sept17 and 3July19 from the links below to read the exciting tale as it has unfolded.  
A broad-brush review of the zoogeography of North American cavesnails has been offered by Hershler & Holsinger (1990).  FWGNA incidence unranked.

> Ecology & Life History

The habitat of F. cryptica seems to suggest a diet that does not ordinarily include algae, but rather very fine organic matter or bacteria.  We are not aware of any good study on the life history of Fontigens, but populations typically seem to maintain high densities year round, as though reproduction might be continuous.  Subterranean karst waters are, of course, very rich in calcium and many other minerals, as well as constant in their temperature.

> Taxonomy & Systematics

Hubricht (1963) described the animal as "translucent whitish, blind" but did not offer any observations on the verge.  Hershler et al. (1990) were unable to re-locate any living specimens, and hence listed F. cryptica as a "species of questionable status."  Assuming that its penial morphology ultimately proves multi-lobed and its placement in the genus Fontigens correct, the assignment of Fontigens to the Hydrobiidae (ss) by Wilke et al. (2013) was still rather tentative.

> Essays

  • Earlier versions of this website, online until August of 2016, adopted the large, broadly-inclusive concept of the Hydrobiidae (sl) following Kabat & Hershler (1993).  More recently the FWGNA project has shifted to the Wilke et al. (2013) classification system, distinguishing a much smaller Hydrobiidae (ss) and elevating many hydrobioid taxa previously ranked as subfamilies to the full family level.  For more details, see The Classification of the Hydrobioids.
  • In 2017 I published a three-part adventure tale about the hunt for F. cryptica in the Bernheim Research Forest.  Several additional photos of the little snail are available in my essay of 17July17, Lori Schroeder's Tiny Snails.  I shared everything I know about their biology in my 6Aug17 essay, The Most Cryptic Freshwater Gastropod in the World, and described a field trip to Bernheim Not Finding Fontigens cryptica on 6Sept17.
  • On 3July19 I reported the exciting news about Finding Fontigens cryptica.  That essay featured photos of the living snail and its habitat.  It concluded with a series of teasers about potential environmental threats.

> References

Hershler, R. H. & J. R. Holsinger (1990)  Zoogeography of North American hydrobiid cavesnails.  Stygologia 5: 5-16.
Hershler, R., J.R. Holsinger & L. Hubricht (1990) A revision of the North American freshwater snail genus Fontigens (Prosobranchia: Hydrobiidae). Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology 509:1-49,  
Hubricht, L. (1963)  New species of Hydrobiidae.  Nautilus 76: 138 - 140. 
Kabat, A.R., and R. Hershler (1993) The prosobranch snail family Hydrobiidae (Gastropoda: Rissooidea): review of classification and supraspecific taxa. Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology 547:1-94.  
Wilke T., Haase M., Hershler R., Liu H-P., Misof B., Ponder W. (2013)  Pushing short DNA fragments to the limit: Phylogenetic relationships of “hydrobioid” gastropods (Caenogastropoda: Rissooidea).  Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 66: 715 – 736.