Friday, February 11, 2011

Species spotlight XI

Mercuria cf. similis (Draparnaud, 1805)
Xlendi, Gozo

The family Hydrobiidae is a large group of small snails with gills (not lungs) living in aquatic habitats, predominantly fresh and brackish. Four representatives are found in the Maltese Islands, the largest of which is the freshwater Mercuria cf. similis (Draparnaud, 1805)*. As a denizen of fresh water bodies, usually close to Blue Clay substrates, Mercuria is rare in Malta but rather more frequent in Gozo. Colonies graze microscopic algae growing on submerged or perennially wet overhangs, and seem to prefer running, clear water. The blue-greyish shell, large shell size and habitat distinguishes it from a similar species, Pseudamnicola moussonii (Calcara, 1841), which will be discussed in a future post.

*In taxonomy, a 'cf.' indicates uncertainty in assigning a specific epithet to a specimen. The uncertainty in this case derives from anatomical differences between Maltese Mercuria and other populations of M. similis.

Mġarr, Gozo

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