Natural History Collections and Alien Species: an Overlooked Sample of Bursatella leachii Blainville, 1817 (Mollusca: Gastropoda: Aplysiida) Backdates its Confirmed Presence in Italy

  • Andrea Travaglini
  • Fabio CrocettaEmail author


The ragged sea hare Bursatella leachii Blainville, 1817 is a heterobranch mollusc with a circumtropical distribution, that since the mid-1900s colonized the Mediterranean Sea and is now considered as one of the alien taxa most widespread in the basin. Here, we backdate its confirmed presence in the Gulf of Naples and Italy as a whole based on an overlooked sample preserved in the natural history collections of Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn (Naples, Italy). The finding reported in the present paper confirms the importance of natural history museums in documenting biogeographic distribution patterns. It also casts doubts on the often assumed pattern of colonization of the Mediterranean basin (combining a Lessepsian origin and natural secondary spread), as it contributes to disrupt the nearly perfect Lessepsian-like spreading highlighted in recent articles.


Mediterranean Sea Alien species Geographic distribution Natural history museums 



Flegra Bentivegna (Naples, Italy) helped with events related to the Museum/Ps. Sergio Dolce (Naples, Italy) took the Bursatella leachii photos (Fig. 1). Giuseppe Fasulo (Naples, Italy) confirmed that no B. leachii specimens were deposited in SZN by him or his co-authors. Pasqualina Fiorentino (SZN - MAB unit, Naples, Italy) helped with literature research. Bruno Moncharmont (Campobasso, Italy) authorized the publication of the file cards 722–723 (Fig. 2). Lina Scotti (SZN - MAB unit, Naples, Italy) provided the Schmekel’s schedule from the research tables database. Ángel Valdés (Pomona, California) and Mary Spencer Jones (London, United Kingdom) offered insight on the present article. Ciro Zazo (Naples, Italy) provided information related to the Fishing service. We are grateful to all of them.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Unit of Museum Archive LibraryStazione Zoologica Anton DohrnNaplesItaly
  2. 2.Department of Integrative Marine EcologyStazione Zoologica Anton DohrnNaplesItaly

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