About us

The “Alpine Land Snails Working Group” was founded in the course of projects on Alpine land snails starting in the 1990ties and continued in a comprehensive FWF-project performed between 2007 and 2011. While in the first period the genera Arianta and Cylindrus were in the focus of our research, several other taxa were covered by our studies later on. In the course of the FWF-project we centered on East Alpine species of the genera Cylindrus, Orcula, Trochulus. In addition, we also started to investigate the genera Petasina, Clausilia, Vertigo, Pyramidula and Cochlostoma. The “Alpine Land Snails Working Group” is primarily located at the Natural History Museum of Vienna , but we are linked with other researcher and institutions and cooperate with several external collaborators.

Although much of our work is dedicated to investigations on land snails with mainly alpine distribution – which was the basis for naming our working group “Alpine land snails”, the taxonomic spectrum was expanded during the last years, covering taxa as, e.g., the xeric genus Helicopsis or the Balkan genus Montenegrina. Meanwhile, the name working group “Alpine land snails” can be seen as historical as the geographic and taxonomic scope of our research interest is continuously broadening.

Our main interests concern evolutionary biology, reproduction biology, distribution patterns, dispersal mechanisms, ecological requirements and adaptations, genetic and morphological variation and, last but not least, speciation. We combine classical morphological methods with molecular analyses, but also consider habitat and distribution data as well as the fossil record to elucidate the phylogenetic and phylogeographic history of the various taxa and to get insights into the evolutionary history of snails in general, especially in the Alpine/Dinaric/Carpathian region.

Historical overview

Working group Alpine land snails 1987-2001

In the late 1980ties the working group arose little by little through a co-operation of Hans Nemeschkal and Hans Kothbauer (University Vienna), which was complemented by a fruitful collaboration with Erhard Wawra and Helmut Sattmann (Natural History Museum Vienna). Morphometric investigations in the mollusc collection and on material from numerous collecting excursions were the basis for a number of master theses performed during those years. Agnes Bisenberger, Doris Kleewein, Helmut Baminger and Gabriele Baumgartner conducted their master theses on Arianta populations, and co-operations with Bruno Baur (Basel), Martin Haase (Vienna, Basel, now Greifswald), Anatoly Schileyko (Moscow) and several other working groups inseminated discussions, seminars and papers. Many details and results of these activities can be found in the reports of the working group ARIANTA 1-3. First molecular systematic studies were conducted at the NHM about Arianta populations and species in course of a FWF project in 1993-1995 (No. P09841-Bio). Furthermore, ecological and anatomical studies on the eastern alpine endemic Cylindrus obtusus were initiated.

Working group Alpine land snails since 2005

The current working group constituted in the course of the project “Phylogeography of Alpine land snails” which started in 2005 and was funded by the Austrian Science Foundation FWF from 2007 to 2011 (No. P19592 B17). From this project a number of investigations of various genera emerged (e.g., on Cylindrus, Orcula, Trochulus, Petasina, Clausilia, Vertigo, Pyramidula and Cochlostoma), several of them still going on. Since 2012 several new projects were initiated, such as the FWF-funded project (No. P26581 B25) “Speciation in rock-dwelling land snails: Understanding the origin of diversity using Montenegrina as a model system” or a DNA-barcoding project on the Austrian malacofauna (in the course of ABOL, the “Austrian barcode of life” project) or the project on intraspecific differentiation and distribution ranges of Helicopsis striata. Furthermore, we participated in a monitoring project on core forest areas in the biosphere reservation “Wienerwald” being responsible for the land snails survey.