Land snail diversity in the monsoon tropics of Northern Australia: Revision of the genus Exiligada Iredale, 1939 (Mollusca: Pulmonata: Camaenidae), with description of 13 new species
Vast parts of the monsoon tropics of Australia feature semi-arid habitats, which are generally thought to harbour a depauperate land snail fauna as compared to the mesic continental fringes, in particular the Australian wet tropics. However, our knowledge of land snails inhabiting these often remote environments is still very patchy. In order to improve the understanding of land snail diversity in the monsoon tropics, we revised the camaenid land snail genus Exiligada based on comprehensive collections, undertaken by use of helicopters on remote limestone outcrops in the Northern Territory and in Western Australia. Based on comparative analyses of shell and genital morphology and patterns of molecular differentiation, we recognize 15 species within Exiligada, 13 of which are newly described. In addition, we suggest a revised delimitation of the type species Exiligada negriensis, as compared to the latest available revision, by removing Exiligada qualis from its synonymy and recognizing it as a distinct species. A key for species identification is also provided. Molecular phylogenetic analyses strongly supported the monophyly of Exiligada with respect to other confamilial genera known to occur in the same geographical region. Most Exiligada species are narrowly endemic to restricted limestone outcrops that cover areas with a diameter of about 20 to 150 km. Within the distributional range of Exiligada, the ranges of up to seven species overlap but we never found more than three species to occur in sympatry at a given sampling site. We propose that species originated by allopatric differentiation, followed by secondary range expansion, leading to sympatric distributions. Our study confirms that less complex rock habitats in more xeric environments support no more than three sympatric species, this being likely to be a result of ecological exclusion.