|A new critical estimate of named species-level diversity of the recent Mollusca|In: American Malacological Bulletin. American Malacological Union: Hattiesburg. ISSN 0740-2783, more
biodiversity, gastropod, bivalve, databases, random sampling
Modern estimates of species-level diversity in the recent Mollusca range from 34,000 to 120,000 described species, with total diversity including undescribed species often cited as 200,000. Most estimates are unverifiable, not being based on reproducible methods. Ultimately the best way to gauge diversity is explicit enumeration: actual listing of known species. Comprehensive lists of species are valued as a basis for systematic revisions and for comparing diversity across taxa, but it is less appreciated that they also provide a means for statistical sampling of biodiversity databases. I assessed the completeness of molluscan species listings in the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) by comparing it to a standardized inventory of the species represented in the Malacology collection of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia (ANSP). Random samples of names were scored for presence or absence in WoRMS, with standard errors calculated from the binomial distribution. The WoRMS database has about 1,200 duplicate or extraneous listings for mollusk species and is missing about 1,300 (3%). Overall marine molluscan diversity is estimated at 43,600 ± 900 species, where 900 is a 95% confidence interval. The validity of this confidence interval depends on the WoRMS database and the ANSP collection not having correlated weaknesses. Lack of relatively complete species databases prevents similar assessments for terrestrial and freshwater mollusks, but, using less rigorous methods, I estimate that there are 70,000 to 76,000 described species of recent Mollusca.
The low end of this estimate, 70,000 species, is similar to the number of recent chordate species, 69,000, so it is possible that the Mollusca are not the second most diverse phylum of animals in terms of recognized recent species. Naming rates for chordate are currently higher than for mollusk, 750 versus 600 species per year, although the Mollusca are regarded as having higher undescribed diversity. The Mollusca have long been considered the most species-rich marine phylum, but the estimate of 43,600 is substantially below the 56,000 species of Arthropoda listed in WoRMS. Globally, the ratio of marine gastropod to marine bivalve species in WoRMS is 4:1, which is higher than in any regional fauna, suggesting that gastropods have smaller geographic ranges on average than bivalves. The main remaining gaps in WoRMS are among opisthobranchs (8% missing) and Indo-Pacific marine mollusks (6%). The most diverse molluscan genus in WoRMS is Turbonilla, with more than 1,000 species listed as accepted.