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Veterinary session

Distribution, identification and parasites of Helix pomatia and Helix thessalica in Hungary
Alexa Lili - year 6
University of Veterinary Medicine Budapest, Department of Pathology
Supervisors: Dr. Míra Mándoki, Dr. Alexandra Juhász, Dr. Barna Páll-Gergely


Helix pomatia, or Roman snail, is a large species widespread throughout Europe, including Hungary. Although the genus Helix is a widespread taxon, only twenty species have been recorded from the Caucasus and the British Isles, while many others are treated as synonyms. Holotypes of many species have been lost, making it difficult to determine whether these are really species of their own right. Originally described in 1886 by German naturalist C.R. Boettger, Helix thessalica is considered as a valid species according to the Czech author Ondřej Korábek. Previously, due to H. thessalica’s similarity to the well-known H. pomatia, the two species were thought to be identical. In 2016, scientists discovered that in Eastern Europe the Roman snail so far considered a single species, consist of two very similar ones. The main difference between the two species is the color of their reproductive organs. Parts of the genital system are black in H. thessalica, whereas H. pomatia lacks the pigmentation. This study investigated the existence of H. thessalica in Hungary, and how it can be differentiated from H. pomatia using morphological methods. The first H. thessalica in Hungary was found in the Bükk Mountains, therefore we also collected snails mainly from this area. More than 100 snails were examined, and based on the pigmentation of the genital organs, seven snail specimens collected from the northern part of the Bükk Mountain were classified as H. thessalica. The pattern and shape of their shells also differed slightly compared to the shells of pigment-free specimens. PCRs of three mtDNA markers (COI, 12S rRNA and 16S rRNA) were performed on all specimens with black reproductive organs and on further 29 pigment-free specimens. Genetic results confirmed morphological findings as H. thessalica can also be found in Hungary and distinguishable from H. pomatia based on the pigmentation of genitalia and partly on the shell morphology. Since the Roman snail is uniformly protected by law in the countries of the European Union, it is important to know, whether one or more species falls into this category. The presence of H. thessalica in Hungary poses a problem for conservationists as the collection of the Roman snail for commercial purposes is permitted despite the protective law. Therefore, it is essential to clarify whether H. thessalica is included under this legislation and decide how conservation should be applied to this species. In another part of our research we compared the parasitological status of the Spanish slug (Arion vulgaris) and the Roman snail (H.pomatia). We found that they have different parasites despite their common place of origin.

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