Bolstering Population of Endangered Snails

October 9, 2019

This is one of New York State’s most endangered species. And believe it or not, it is a tiny snail. It’s called the Chittenango Ovate Amber snail, and one of the reasons why it’s so imperiled is that is only lives in one spot in the entire world, and that’s Chittenango Falls State Park. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service has drafted a recovery plan for the species, and one of the requirements is to hold a captive population. There’s only 300 snails in the wild, and we actually have 400 snails in the lab. So, we want to have this backup in case something happens to the wild population, and we’re also going to release, transitioning from captivity to the wild. I call it a head start. So it’s just like a child. You bring them up to a certain stage, and then they’re more likely to succeed. So hopefully, these little head started snails can survive better. So, as a graduate student my job was to figure out how to rear these guys in captivity. Their diet is incredibly important. So, what we have to do is sort all these leaves into thin and medium and thick cherry leaves. They really like the thin ones, so their mouth part, which is called a radula, can puncture through the leaf. So thin is very highly preferred. Medium is a little bit less preferred. Here’s a thick one, and you can’t see the light through that. So typically the snails do not consume that. So we’ve got some adults that are 10 to 12 millimeters in shell length. And we’ve tagged them, so we can actually track those. And next year when we do our survey, we’re hoping that we’ll actually find some of these snails existing and maybe even reproducing, to help augment the population.

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