Vespericola columbianus

Vespericola columbianus (I. Lea, 1839)
Northwest Hesperian

  • Helix columbiana I. Lea 1839: 89, pl. 23, fig. 75.
  • ? Helix labiosa Gould 1846 (1846–1850): 165, pl. 12, fig. 67; pl. 4, fig. 52, non Helix labiosa O. F. Müller, 1774.
  • ? Vespericola columbiana [sic] latilabrum Pilsbry 1940: 899, nomen novum pro Helix labiosa Gould, 1846.
Vespericola columbianus; Kitsault, BC.

Identification. Shell globose–depressed-heliciform. Spire low-conical. Spire conical, low. Whorls 5–6, rather closely coiled, convex. Suture well-impressed. Periphery rounded, medial on last whorl. Protoconch with a few curved radial ripples then finely granular. Teleoconch with weak, irregular incremental wrinkles, fine wrinkling, and granulation. Periostracum with short, densely spaced, erect hairs (not always persisting in adults); when hairs worn off, scars evident in places. Last whorl descends a little to the adult lip. Aperture subovate-crescentic. No denticles in aperture. Lip expanded, not recurved, thin-edged, contracted behind. Umbilicus small, narrow, partially obscured by the lip. Shell matte, usually yellowish brown; expanded lip whitish or very pale brown-cream. Shell to 10–17 mm wide (wider than high).

Animal tan to light grey-brown, usually with ocular tentacles darker. Dark blotches visible through the shell wall.

Vespericola columbiana
Vespericola columbiana; Glacier Gulch, Hudson Bay Mountain, near Smithers, BC.

The periostracal hairs are much more closely spaced than in Micranepsia germana; with this knowledge and some practice, even juveniles of these two species can be told apart.

Vespericola columbianus; Koksilah River, Vancouver Island, BC.

Habitat. In dry to wet forests, or sometimes in grassy, open seaside habitats; under logs and rocks, around Sword Ferns, and other shelter. Crawling in the open during wet weather.

Global range. Unalaska Island, Alaska, to Oregon (Pilsbry 1940, Roth & Miller 1993).

Canadian range. British Columbia: along the whole coast but extending inland in areas where moist Pacific air penetrates the mountains, and in the wetter areas of south-eastern BC mountains.

Etymology. Named after the Columbia River.

Remarks. Isaac Lea (1839) described this species in a paper was read before the American Philosophical Society over several years. According to Tryon (1861), the part containing the description of Helix columbiana was read on 4 November 1838, but the pages of the Transactions in which it was printed did not appear until 1839. The correct date would appear to be 1839 unless there were separate pamphlets issued at the time of reading, which would otherwise render the name available from 1838.

In addition to the nominotypical subspecies, Pilsbry (1940) recognized four additional subspecies, but most of these are now believed to be full species (Roth & Miller 1993). Some authors have called hairy-shelled Vespericola from Alaska to Washington V. columbiana pilosa [sic] under the false impression that adult V. columbianus lack periostracal hairs. However, Roth & Miller (1993) found anatomical characters as well as subtle conchological characters to distinguish V. pilosus, a central Californian species, from northern Vespericola, and used V. columbianus for these northern populations. The only subspecies not removed and elevated to full species as of yet are V. columbianus depressus (Pilsbry & Henderson, 1936) and V. columbianus latilabrum Pilsbry, 1940. Vespericola columbianus depressus, from the Columbia Gorge (Oregon/Washington)was said by Frest & Johannes (1995) to be likely a separate species on account of conchological and anatomical differences (but with the details of the latter never published). The very much more expanded palatal lip of V. columbianus latilabrum is suggestive that is could also be a separate species.

Burke’s (2013) accounts of Vespericola north of the Canada–USA border seem confused. He indicated that “V. columbianus spp.”, with periostracal hairs persistent in adults, occurs in BC and wrote that it is the taxon previously known (i.e., Pilsbry 1940) as “V. columbiana pilosa”. He seems to have ignored some of the findings of Roth & Miller (1993) who found the absence/presence of periostracal hairs to be not taxonomically significant. Roth & Miller (1993) identified specimens from Prince Rupert, Haida Gwaii, Port Hardy, and the Fraser Valley as V. columbianus. Moreover, Burke’s (2013) maps of “Vespericola columbianus columbiana” (with periostracal hairs usually lost in adults) and V. columbianus latilabrum show that these species also extend into BC although this seems contrary to his what he wrote in the text.

The gender of the name Vespericola has been treated as either feminine or masculine by authors. Roth & Miller (1993) treated the name as masculine, in agreement with the first part of Article of the Code (ICZN 1999), which states “A genus-group name that is or ends in a word of common or variable gender (masculine or feminine) is to be treated as masculine unless its author, when establishing the name, stated that it is feminine or treated it as feminine in combination with an adjectival species-group name …”. Although Pilsbry (1940) considered Vespericola to be feminine, he gave no indication of its gender when he proposed the name (Pilsbry 1939: xvii).