FWGNA > Species Accounts > Pleuroceridae > Lithasia geniculata fuliginosa
Lithasia geniculata fuliginosa (Lea 1841)
  • click to view larger

> Habitat & Distribution

Goodrich (1940) gave the range of Lithasia geniculata fuliginosa as the Harpeth and Red Rivers of the Cumberland drainage, plus the Duck/Buffalo River system of Middle Tennessee.  Our surveys confirm this range, adding the Stones River east of Nashville.

Populations of Lithasia reach maximum densities on rocky shoals, and are not typically recorded in the (often lengthy) stretchs of slackwater throughout this (rather circumscribed) range.  Considering the fuliginosa subspecies together with L. geniculata geniculata (ss) and L. geniculata pinguis, the FWGNA incidence rank of Lithasia geniculata is I-4.

> Ecology & Life History

Pleurocerids are heavily-shelled, conspicuous freshwater gastropods, typically inhabiting firm substrates in shallow waters.  Males are aphallic; females can be distinguished by an egg laying groove on the right side of their foot.  Most populations are perennial and iteroparous, typically requiring more than a year to mature and living several years (Life cycle Hi of Dillon 2000: 156-162).  Eggs are affixed to hard substrates singly or in small clusters from spring to midsummer.  Pleurocerids are generalized grazers, and where present in high density can have significant effects on energy flow in streams (Dillon 2000: 86-91).

> Taxonomy & Systematics

Tryon (1873) catalogued 25 species in the genus Lithasia/Angitrema, primarily inhabiting the Tennessee/Cumberland but ranging throughout the interior drainages of seven states.  Among Calvin Goodrich's greatest contributions to science was his (1934) hypothesis that three of these nomina: geniculata (Haldeman), fuliginosa (Lea) and pinguis (Lea), were shell variants of a single species inhabiting the Duck River of middle Tennessee in clinal series.  This observation presaged our understanding of "cryptic phenotypic plasticity" in the North American Pleuroceridae (Dillon 2011, 2014; Dillon et al. 2013) by 80 years.  See my essays 20Feb07, 3June13 and 11July14 from the links below for a review of the CPP phenomenon, as demonstrated by the Duck River Lithasia populations and elsewhere.

Goodrich lowered fuliginosa and pinguis to subspecific rank under geniculata, ultimately (in 1940) boiling Tryon's 25 species down to 10 species and 14 subspecies.  Burch (1989) left Goodrich's system almost untouched, trimming out one species and 8 subspecies, but adding one species more recently described, to bring the total back to 10.

Minton & Lydeard (2003) obtained mtDNA sequences from 11 L. geniculata populations: 1 identified as geniculata geniculata (1 individual), 8 as geniculata fuliginosa (17 individuals) and 2 as geniculata pinguis (8 individuals).  The 6 populations sampled from the Duck River, regardless of subspecific designation, were indistinguishable genetically. 

Two individual L. geniculata fuliginosa sampled from the Buffalo River (a tributary of the Duck) differed, however, from the main Duck populations by 2.8%.  This prompted Minton (2013) to describe the Buffalo Lithasia as a new species, L. bubala.  Minton & Lydeard also uncovered 4.3% divergence between the common Duck River Lithasia sequence and individual L. geniculata fuliginosa sampled from Garrison Fork (of the upper Duck) and Red River (of the Cumberland), the significance of which was not clear at the time.  The allozyme study of Dillon (2020a) has confirmed, however, that the L. geniculata population of the Duck River and its tributaries comprises a single biological species, rates of gene flow attenuated both by the isolation by distance, and by the occasional barriers to dispersal typical of pleurocerid populations generally.

Going beyond their failure to detect any mtDNA sequence divergence in their six L. geniculata samples from the main Duck River, Minton & Lydeard were unable to detect any genetic difference between L. geniculata and five Duck River samples of Lithasia armigera subspecies, for which allozyme data confirm reproductive isolation (Dillon 2020a,b).  This failure calls into question the efficacy of mtDNA sequence data, especially as applied to pleurocerid systematics.  It also led Minton et al. (2008) and Minton et al. (2018) to lump all subspecies of geniculata together with reproductively isolated populations of L. armigera subspecies into combined studies of shell morphometric variation subsequently conducted down the length of the Duck.

See the series of essays I posted on the FWGNA blog from December 2021 to March 2022 from the links below for more about the Duck River Lithasia, contextualized within our understanding of pleurocerid evolution generally.

> Supplementary Resources

> Essays

> References

Burch, J. B. (1989)  North American Freshwater Snails.  Malacological Publications, Hamburg, MI.
Dillon, R. T., Jr. (1989)
  Karyotypic evolution in pleurocerid snails: I. Genomic DNA estimated by flow cytometry. Malacologia, 31: 197-203. 
Dillon, R. T., Jr. (2000)  The Ecology of Freshwater Molluscs. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.  509 pp.

Dillon, R. T., Jr. (2011)  Robust shell phenotype is a local response to stream size in the genus Pleurocera.  Malacologia 53: 265-277.  [pdf]
Dillon, R. T., Jr.  (2014) Cryptic phenotypic plasticity in populations of the North American freshwater gastropod, Pleurocera semicarinata.  Zoological Studies 53:31. [html] [pdf]
Dillon, R. T., Jr. (2020a) Population genetic survey of Lithasia geniculata in the Duck River, Tennessee.  Ellipsaria 22(2): 19 - 21 [pdf].
Dillon, R. T., Jr. (2020b) Reproductive isolation between Lithasia populations of the geniculata and duttoniana forms in the Duck River, Tennessee.  Ellipsaria 22(3): 6 - 8.  [pdf]
Dillon, R. T., Jr., S. J. Jacquemin & M. Pyron (2013) Cryptic phenotypic plasticity in populations of the freshwater prosobranch snail, Pleurocera canaliculata.  Hydrobiologia 709: 117-127. [html] [pdf]
Goodrich, C. (1934) Studies of the gastropod family Pleuroceridae - I.  Occas. Pprs. Mus. Zool. Univ. Mich. 286: 1 - 17.
Goodrich, C. (1940) The Pleuroceridae of the Ohio River drainage system.  Occas. Pprs. Mus. Zool. Univ. Mich., 417: 1-21.
Goodrich, C. (1941) Studies of the gastropod family Pleuroceridae VIII.  Occas. Pprs. Mus. Zool. Univ. Mich. 447: 1 - 13.
Minton, R. L. (2002)  A cladistic analysis of Lithasia (Gastropoda: Pleuroceridae) using morphological characters.  The Nautilus 116: 39-49.
Minton, R. L. (2013) A new species of Lithasia (Gastropoda: Pleuroceridae) from the Buffalo River, Tennessee, USA.  The Nautilus 127: 119 - 124.
Minton, R. L., K. C. Hart, R. Fiorillo, & C. Brown (2018)  Correlates of snail shell variation along a unidirectional freshwater gradient in Lithasia geniculata (Haldeman, 1840) (Caenogastropoda: Pleuroceridae) from the Duck River, Tennessee, USA.  Folia Malacologica 26: 95 - 102.
Minton, R. L. & C. Lydeard (2003) Phylogeny, taxonomy, genetics, and global heritage ranks of an imperiled, freshwater snail genus Lithasia (Pleuroceridae)  Molecular Ecology 12: 75-87.
Minton, R. L., A. P. Norwood & D. M. Hayes (2008) Quantifying phenotypic gradients in freshwater snails: a case study in Lithasia (Gastropoda: Pleuroceridae)  Hydrobiologia 605: 173-182
Tryon, G. W. (1873) Land and Fresh-water shells of North America.  Part IV, Strepomatidae.  Smithsonial Miscellaneous Collections 253: 1- 434.