Les Muricidae d'Afrique occidentale

by Roland Houart. Brussels, 1996. I. Muricinae & Muricopsinae. Apex 11(3-4):95-161. Available from the Societe Belge de Malacologie, Av. Mozart 52, 1190 Bruxelles, Belgium. Price 700 Belgian Francs + postage (approximately $25.00).
Astronomers tell us that a black hole lurks in the center of the galaxy. For those of us interested in the Muricidae, that black hole is much closer - western Africa. We knew there were a lot of species there, but getting them has not always been easy. And identifying them was worse. Pursuing the standard works, one gets the feeling that everyone was just guessing. Until now. This is the first of a two part review of the west African muricids by the heir apparent to the Murex throne, Roland Houart. This part deals with the Muricinae and Muricopsinae. Part two will cover the remaining subfamilies. Both will be indispensable to anyone interested in this group.

Western Africa has several well-known and impressive species - Bolinus cornutus, Purpurellus gambiensis, Homalocantha melanamathos, Muricopsis bojadorensi, etc. But west African muricids also have two major problems - Hexaplex and Muricopsis. The area has a high diversity of both, and the species are difficult to tell apart. Anyone familiar with muricids is aware of the traumatizing mess known as Hexaplex saxatilis. Or is it hoplites, or maybe turbinatus, or perhaps bifasciatus, or rosarium, or duplex? Houart recognizes duplex, rosarium, angularis, bifasciatus, megacerus, varius, and saharicus as good species - a lot of Hexaplex! (The western Atlantic Ocean also was once Hexaplex-rich, but the majority are extinct). Most difficult to differentiate are duplex and rosarium, which are both variable species. Despite a table putting forth the differences between the two, I still have problems fitting Hoaurt's figures to his scheme. Figure 60 looks a lot more like duplex than rosarium.

The muricopsines are equally diverse - 10 taxa are recognized, many recently described and from small zoogeographic areas (particularly Sþo Tom). You might want to wait for part 2, which will cover the ergalataxines, before you identify these small species. The genus Prodoxa, known from two species from Sþo Tom, is removed from the Buccinidae and relegated to the Muricopsinae. At under 5 mm in length, these species are among the smallest muricids known.

Sixty-six nominal species are covered, but no new taxa are proposed. In what will be a controversial move, he has synonymized Hexaplex clausii with varius. In the we-knew-it-all-along department, he has synonymized Murexiella asteriae with bojadorensis. The long lost and extremely rare Subpterynotus exquisitus, described from an unknown locality, is finally identified as a member of the Western Sahara fauna. But don't expect it on lists anytime soon. Vokes had suggested that the eastern Atlantic Ocean might be its home, while hoping it would turn up in the western Atlantic. Sorry, Emily.

This is the usual high-quality work we have come to expect from Houart. Radulae and protoconchs are illustrated as well as the shells. The photography is much better than some of his earlier works. As usual, Houart is a man of few words, and we wish he would expound a bit more in places. The text is in French, but there are English "Remarks" for all species, though the French "Remarques" are often longer and more informative. I highly recommend this work - it was sorely needed.

-- G. Thomas Watters