Morphological Variation and Speciation of Acavidae Family: A Case Study from Fossil and Living Species of Batadombalena Cave Pre-historic Site in Sri Lanka

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A sufficient knowledge on prehistoric culture and habitat of earliest Homo sapiens (Balangoda man) is available in Batadomba-lena cave, a noticeable rock shelter in lowland rainforest of southwestern Sri Lanka goes upto Pleistocene and Holocene eras. Late Pleistocene inhabitants of Batadombalena cave’s foraged for a broad spectrum of plant and mainly arboreal animal resources such as, monkeys, squirrels and rainforest snails etc. Archaeo-faunal evidence would help to describe the prehistoric man eating behavior as well as availability of nature pre-historic flora, fauna and environmental status. The family Acavidae is very sensitive to climatic variations, hence used as a bio-indicator to describe the variations of paleo-climatic nature. This study examined the morphological features of 20 samples of Acavidae family (living/fossil samples of Acavus superbus, and sub fossil samples of Oligospira waltoni) collected from soils by digger method in 2005 and compared with 20 samples from the same area at presently available. The shell characters of snails such as, height, width, diameter of mouth, thickness of lip, and angular of axis were measured and subjected to multivariate analysis to understand how climatic variability and nature of paleo-diet contribute survival of Acavidae species. Results showed that Acavus superbus living species had large shell characteristics than the sub fossils. Results of similar study in the same climatic status in 2000 showed that the shell measurements of Acavus superbus are relatively larger than both living and sub fossils in Batadobalena cave. Ordination diagram derived from species shell characteristics showed that Acavus superbus living species grouped as scattered /diffuse clusters, while sub fossil species grouped as a single cluster at the center of the ordination diagram. It is imply a trend of speciation /diversification of Acavus species from Pleistocene era to date. Multivariate analyses prove that, a strong positive correlation of species characteristics, such as height (r = 0.62), thickness of lip (r = 0.544) and angular of axis (r = 0.744), and a strong negative relationship (r = 0.832) for shell width for the species were observed. Our results are useful to compare with other fossil snails to see whether the climate change influence for changing body size. In conclusion, palaeo-environment, and present environment variation has been occurred in minimum way without much changes to observed Acavidae species compositions present and past.

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