Blog entries / Endangered Species

Protecting New York’s thumbnail-sized snail

The Chittenango ovate amber snail is only known from one place in the world—Chittenango Falls in Chittenango State Park in New York. It requires the cool, moist environment of the waterfalls. Credit: USFWS

The Chit requires the cool, moist environment of the waterfalls. Credit: USFWS

In central New York, in the mist where Chittenango Falls cascades over million-year-old bedrock, creep several hundred tiny, rare animals that evolved over 2 million years ago.

Chittenango ovate amber snails (Succinea chittenangoensis) are unique to the Empire State—you won’t find them anywhere else in the world.

While similar fossil shells have been found as far north as Ontario, Canada and as far west as Tennessee and Iowa, the only known living population of these small snails is at the edge of this waterfall in Chittenango Falls State Park.

The shell of the Chittenango ovate amber snail is glossy, off-white to pale or pinkish yellow and is marked with growth wrinkles and lines. The soft body of the snail is a pale, translucent yellow. Credit: Kirstin Breisch Russell

The shell of the Chittenango ovate amber snail is glossy, off-white to pale or pinkish yellow and is marked with growth wrinkles and lines. The soft body of the snail is a pale, translucent yellow. Credit: Kirstin Breisch Russell

The snail, which some biologists affectionately refer to as “the Chit,” is named for its home; its ovate, egg-shaped shell; and its amber coloring.

We’re celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act – and the recovery of the first invertebrate under the ESA, Arkansas’ Magazine Mountain shagreen snail.Check out other stories of endangered plant and animal conservation in the Northeast!

The snails thrive in the spray zone of the waterfall, a moist and mild environment, and they feed on microscopic plants growing on nearby rocks and vegetation.

For years, biologists feared that a single, catastrophic event such as a toxic spill, could wipe out the entire population of Chittenango ovate amber snails.

“Anything that goes wrong at this one location affects the entire species,” says Robyn Niver, a biologist in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s New York Field Office. “For example, in 2006, after some high rain events, a large section of rock came loose from the surrounding cliff and fell right into the snail’s habitat.”

Where are we today?

To prepare for that possibility, several partners have teamed up to keep an eye on the population size and to protect some snails in captivity. Every two weeks, from May to September, a group of volunteers combs sections of the cliff for snails, tagging them with bee tags (small tags used to identify and track individuals), and then returning them to the same spot. …Continue reading this story!

More:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s