• Land snails;
  • anatomy;
  • cladistics;
  • phylogeny;
  • classification

The family of polygyrid land snails in North America is significant for its sympatric shell convergences, diversity of mating systems and complex zoogeography; its monophyly and its relation to other families has long been questionable. Cladistic analysis has been performed on one representative each of 17 subfamilies, including all three polygyrid subfamilies and one or more subfamilies each from all ten of the families that have been proposed as the polygyrid sister groups. Eighteen anatomical synapomorphies are used, of which eight are newly discovered, four are differently assessed from previous studies, and six are traditional. The resulting strict consensus tree of alternative maximum-parsimony cladograms is: (Acavidae (Ammonitellidae Corillidae ((Discidae Oreohelicidae) (Helminthoglyptidae Bradybaenidae Polygyridae (Thysanophoridae (Camaenidae Sagdidae)))))).

According to this working hypothesis, the Polygyridae are monophyletic, and their sister group remains unresolved, although the Acavidae, Ammonitellidae, Corillidae, Discidae and Oreohelicidae can be ruled out. Of the five classifications of stylommatophoran families that have been proposed in the past 12 years, the consensus tree is closest to that of Nordsieck. For future morphological work, three regions are recommended as potentially rich in unused phylogenetic information: the fertilization pouch-seminal receptacle complex, the ureter at the pneumostome and the ventral-chain ganglia. Simultaneous dissection, wkh side-by-side comparisons, is recommended over other methods for detecting homologies in land snails. Molecular characters should be exploited, because of the scarcity and the frequent homoplasy of morphological characters.