Arkhangelsk biologists help Myanmar authorities understand the diversity of mollusks described in the 19th century

The work of scientists from the Federal Center for Research on Integrated Arctic Studies. The Academic N.P. Laverov of the Urals Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences is important in terms of Myanmar fauna classification. It also gives an idea of ​​how the ecological situation has changed in some parts of this South Asian country.

In 1885-1887, the Italian explorer and traveler Leonardo Fea collected a large collection of sweet and terrestrial mollusks in six different locations in British Burma (now Myanmar). Not only did he catch them in the rivers, he searched the forests and mountains, but he also bought them in the markets of Mandalay. The resulting samples were studied by the Italian soft drinker Cesare Maria Tapparone-Canefri. Based on the results of the study, an article was published describing 34 species, including those that are new to science.

Leonardo Fea collections are collected in two major museums. Part of the shells is presented at the Municipal Museum of Natural History. Giacomo Doria in Genoa (Italy), the other place is in the Museum of Zoological Research of India in Kolkata. In the first half of the 20th century, the famous Indian zoologist Baini Prashad studied the collections and their description. He concluded that there were shortcomings in the classification of Tapparone-Canefrey’s work: not all mollusks were correctly identified. The Italian was guided by the shell designs described by his contemporaries. However, even now, with all the evolution of morphology, it is considered difficult to identify a mollusk from a design.

Aquatic life is constantly in the spotlight of the Myanmar authorities. And for remote villagers, freshwater shellfish are the main source of animal protein. The government is attracting top scientists to assess biodiversity. The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation of Myanmar has been collaborating for a long time with a group of zoologists of the Academic N.P. Laverov of the Ural branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Laverovsky Center, Arkhangelsk). Russian scientists have been invited to re-analyze the Burmese ions (a large family of freshwater mollusks) described by Tapparone-Kanefri. The work was supported by the Russian Institute of Science and the Russian Ministry of Education and Science.

A team of mollusks, which also included Indian researchers, studied a number of collections of molluscs of described species, including specimens on display in museums in Genoa, Calcutta, Paris, Cambridge and North Carolina, Frankfurt and Frankfurt. at the Russian Museum of Biodiversity Centers (part of the Laveroff Center structure). In addition, a comprehensive source of seashell taxonomy, the MUSSEL Project online database (MUSSELp), was used.

As Alexander Kondakov, a Leading Researcher at the Laverov Center Molecular Ecology and Biogeography Laboratory, points out, the development of an up-to-date classification system for representatives of the single order cannot be based solely on the morphological characteristics of the shells. The identification of modern species should include genetic analysis of living tissues. To this end, a series of missions were organized in Myanmar along the Leonardo Fea route, during which new samples were collected.

As a result of the review, all the species mentioned in Tapparone-Canefri’s work were identified and a comparative table was created.

“Some of the species described by the Italian scientist are considered new, unknown to science, but many have not been confirmed. Most of the species were actually known at the time thanks to the work of other researchers. In several cases, the opposite happened – Tapparone-Canefri spotted new species as previously known. This, for example, is an interesting Trapezoideus mitanensis mollusk from the Haungtayo River Basin in southern Myanmar. We described it as a new species “comments the director of the Center. Academician Laverov, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences Ivan Bolotov.

Representatives of the research team emphasize that a thorough analysis and revision of old works is extremely important, as errors refer to new works, which leads to unacceptable global confusion in classification. By the way, the results of the review carried out by Russian scientists (and a number of other works) complemented one of the sections of the Red List of Flora and Fauna. It is maintained by the Myanmar government and is similar to the Russian Red Book, which includes rare and endangered species.

A new article by Russian zoologists, published in the Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research, shows that at least as early as the 19th century, freshwater mollusks were traded in Burma and sold as food. So far they are fried and added to soups. The collection of shellfish in Southeast Asia is similar to how the Russians collect mushrooms. And in the north of Myanmar, the soft body is still the main protein product in the diet of the locals.

During the preparation of the mission plan, the exact coordinates of the places where Leonardo Fea worked were taken into account, which emerged from the study of his notes and diaries. Russian researchers who visited there recorded clear changes in the environment caused by human activity.

“Research along 150-year mission routes helps track the abundance of fauna species and changes in the environment. We found places where, due to the total deforestation, very little of the fauna survived. The trees have been cut down – the heating of the soil and water bodies has intensified. We encountered, for example, a surviving stream that flows through endless farmland. “The water in it is hot and there are no shellfish or fish in the hot water,” says Alexander Kondakov.

In the tropics, forest vegetation plays a huge role, which serves as protection for fauna and ecosystems. Myanmar does not have legislation to protect forests along waterways. At best, where the original rainforests were cut down, olive, eucalyptus or banana are now grown. Περιοχές the areas where the forest is destroyed are used for pastures for cattle.

Even in the relatively small tributaries of the Indochina River, rare endemic species are still found. However, with intensively growing agriculture and the absence of processing facilities in rural areas, it will be extremely difficult to maintain biodiversity. An international study is helping to determine how devastating the man-made effects on the natural environment have been over a period of time.

In the photo: museum and modern examples of shells

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