Oxychilidae

Family Oxychilidae P. Hesse in Geyer, 1827 (1879)

This family is now represented in Canada by only three introduced species of the genus Oxychilus. Oxychilus alliarius, the aptly named “Garlic Glass-snail”, is renowned for producing a pungent, garlic-like mucus when disturbed. This is presumably is a defence mechanism (and also an instance where smelling a snail can determine its identity!).

Recently, a number of genera (Glyphyalina, Nesovitrea, Aegopinella, and others) have been removed to the Gastrodontidae.


Subfamily Oxychilinae P. Hesse in Geyer, 1827 (1879)

Genus Oxychilus Fitzinger, 1833

  • Oxychilus Fitzinger 1833: 100; type species by subsequent designation (Herrmannsen 1847 in 1846–1852: 183; ICZN 1956, Opinion 431): Helix cellaria O. F. Müller, 1774.

There are over 100 species in the Western Palearctic. An alternative classification recognizes the subgenus Ortizius Forcart, 1957 (including O. alliarius and O. navarricus) (Forcart 1957). However, Giusti & Manganelli (2002) proposed that Ortizius is a synonym of Oxychilus sensu stricto due their inability to distinguish it from species of Oxychilus sensu stricto (Giusti & Manganelli 1999, 2002).

Etymology. Greek: oxys, sharp + chilos, lip. Masculine.


Subgenus Oxychilus Fitzinger, 1833

Oxychilus (Oxychilus) alliarius (J. S. Miller, 1822)
Oxychilus (Oxychilus) cellarius (O. F. Müller, 1774)
Oxychilus (Oxychilus) draparnaudi (Beck, 1837)


Key to species of Oxychilus in Canada (with Aegopinella added)

  • 1a       Animal dark, blackish or bluish — 2
  • 1b       Animal paler, light grey, darker on the head and ocular tentacles — O. cellarius
  • 2a       Shell strongly glossy — 3
  • 2b       Shell with a waxy-like sheen (caused by microsculpture) — A. nitidula
  • 3a       Animal emitting a garlic-like odour when handled. Animal blackish. Adult shell width < 7 mm — O. alliarius
  • 3b       Animal not emitting an odour. Animal bluish. Adult shell width to 16 mm — O. draparnaudi