FWGNA > Species Accounts > Hydrobiidae > Fontigens tartarea
Fontigens tartarea Hubricht 1963

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> Habitat & Distribution

The range of this minute hydrobiid was given by Hershler and colleagues (1990) as “Found in caves in Ohio River drainages of eastern West Virginia, from the Monongahela River south to the New River Basin.”  The USNM does contain two more recent records from Virginia caves, however, a 1994 record from Highland County and a 1995 record from Bath.  This extends the range of F. tartarea into the upper James River basin, and waters flowing eastward toward the Atlantic.  

A broad-brush review of the zoogeography of North American cavesnails has been offered by Hershler & Holsinger (1990).  FWGNA incidence unranked.

> Ecology & Life History

Fontigens tartarea is apparently a stygobiont, obligately adapted to the cave environment.  We are not aware of any good study on the life history of any population in the genus Fontigens, stygobiontic or otherwise.  But populations (of all species) typically seem to maintain constant densities year round, as though reproduction might be continuous.  This would certainly seem a reasonable assumption for F. tartarea, living nearly divorced from seasonal cues.  The waters of limestone caves are (of course) rich in minerals, but poor in organics.  Presumably the entire ecosystem of F. tartarea is based on fine organic matter raining down from the lighted world above.

> Taxonomy & Systematics

This species is among the rarer and more obscure of the nine Fontigens species monographed by Hershler and his colleagues in 1990.  The animal is unpigmented and unusually small, even by hydrobioid standards, no more than 2.3 mm maximum shell length.   Like other members of the subfamily Fontigentinae, F. tartarea bears a rather striking multiply-ducted penis.  While their species-level taxonomy has been stable, their assignment to the Hydrobiidae (ss) by Wilke et al. (2013) was rather tentative.

> Supplementary Resources [PDF]

> Essays

  • I wrote an essay on 22Aug07 about a hunt for the troglobitic hydrobiid Holsingeria unthanksensis in southwest Virginia, offering some observations likely relevant to the biology of Fontigens tartarea as well.  See Cave Snail Adventure.
  • 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.

> 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.