Quid est Clea helena? Evidence for a previously unrecognized radiation of assassin snails (Gastropoda: Buccinoidea: Nassariidae)

  • Strong E
  • Galindo L
  • Kantor Y
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The genus Clea from SE Asia is from one of only two unrelated families among the megadiverse predatory marine Neogastropoda to have successfully conquered continental waters. While little is known about their anatomy, life history and ecology, interest has grown exponentially in recent years owing to their increasing popularity as aquarium pets. However, the systematic affinities of the genus and the validity of the included species have not been robustly explored. Differences in shell, operculum and radula characters support separation of Clea as presently defined into two distinct genera: Clea , for the type species Clea nigricans and its allies, and Anentome for Clea helena and allies. A five-gene mitochondrial (COI, 16S, 12S) and nuclear (H3, 28S) gene dataset confirms the placement of Anentome as a somewhat isolated offshoot of the family Nassariidae and sister to the estuarine Nassodonta . Anatomical data corroborate this grouping and, in conjunction with their phylogenetic placement, support their recognition as a new subfamily, the Anentominae. The assassin snail Anentome helena , a popular import through the aquarium trade so named for their voracious appetite for other snails, is found to comprise a complex of at least four species. None of these likely represents true Anentome helena described from Java, including a specimen purchased through the aquarium trade under this name in the US and one that was recently found introduced in Singapore, both of which were supported as conspecific with a species from Thailand. The introduction of Anentome “ helena ” through the aquarium trade constitutes a significant threat to native aquatic snail faunas which are often already highly imperiled. Comprehensive systematic revision of this previously unrecognized species complex is urgently needed to facilitate communication and manage this emerging threat.




Strong, E. E., Galindo, L. A., & Kantor, Y. I. (2017). Quid est Clea helena? Evidence for a previously unrecognized radiation of assassin snails (Gastropoda: Buccinoidea: Nassariidae) . PeerJ, 5, e3638. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.3638

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