Conchometrics, systematics and distribution of Melanopsis (Mollusca: Gastropoda) in the Levant

Joseph Heller, Peter Mordan, Frida Ben-Ami, Naomi Sivan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this conchometric study, the systematics and distribution of the freshwater gastropod Melanopsis in the Levant are described. Of the ten species found, three are widespread, two have narrow distributions and five are known only from their type locality. Five smooth-shelled species are recognized (buccinoidea, ammonis, dircaena, khabourensis and meiostoma). Within M. buccinoidea, Jordan Valley populations may belong to a separate subspecies. M. ammonis is clearly differentiated from buccinoidea of the nearby Jordan Valley, but less so from buccinoidea of more distant sites; differences between ammonis and meiostoma are significant but not diagnostic. Five species have ribbed shells. Within costata, four subspecies are recognized (in the northern Orontes, upper Jordan, Sea of Galilee, and in southernmost parts of the Levant). Throughout the Levant, M. buccinoidea frequently hybridizes with M. costata and fossil evidence suggests that these species have been hybridizing for the last 1.5 Myr. M. saulcyi differs from M. costata in its narrower shell and shorter, bumpier ribs and frequently hybridizes with M. buccinoidea throughout the Levant. Specimens from Homs differ from those of the Jordan Valley in their higher figurativity index, fewer ribs and lower rib density. M. germaini differs from M. costata in its more numerous ribs, M. pachya in its shorter ribs, and M. infracincta in its bumpy shell in which each rib has huge tubercles, with a pronounced ridge flanking the columella. Our conclusion that there are ten species in the Levant differs from previous studies that suggested only two subspecies of one species (or superspecies). This difference could stem from (1) our use of nonstandard as well as standard conchometrics, (2) a reappraisal of the importance of the shell vs. the radula in intrageneric systematics, and (3) differences of opinion on the subspecies concept.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)229-260
Number of pages32
JournalZoological Journal of the Linnean Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Freshwater snails
  • Gastropods
  • Taxonomy


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