Endangered Species Protection Sought for Imperiled Los Angeles Snail

For Immediate Release

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Tierra Curry, (928) 522-3681, tcurry@biologicaldiversity.org

Endangered Species Protection Sought for Imperiled Los Angeles Snail

Rare Mollusk is Threatened by Sprawl, Climate Change, Fire

LOS ANGELES - The Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition today with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seeking Endangered Species Act protection for a rare snail that lives only in the Los Angeles area.

Before the city was developed, the San Gabriel chestnut snail was found from south of Compton to the San Gabriel Mountains in the north. Now it survives only in the Angeles National Forest and on adjacent private lands between Glendora and Altadena. The snail is threatened by development, fire and climate change.

“Saving the San Gabriel chestnut snail may seem like a small matter, but snails actually do a lot of important things for humans,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “These amazing little animals play critical roles in the environment and deserve to be protected like other imperiled wildlife.”

The San Gabriel chestnut snail is dark and glossy, with a spiraled shell that is chestnut in color and a little more than 1 inch wide. It has very specific habitat requirements and cannot relocate when its habitat is in harm’s way from development or fire. There are currently no mechanisms in place that protect the unique snail or its remaining habitat.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must evaluate today’s petition and publish a finding on whether protection for the snail may be warranted. If the initial finding is positive, then the snail will receive a status review that will result in either a proposal for listing or a finding that listing is not warranted.

Globally mollusks are the most at-risk group of animals because they are particularly vulnerable to human-caused changes in the environment. Scientists estimate that more than half of the mollusk species that have been evaluated are threatened with extinction.

“Protecting the environment for future generations includes safeguarding the underappreciated little species that keep natural processes working,” said Curry.

Snails eat decaying vegetation, recycle nutrients, and disperse seeds and fungal spores. They also build soils and provide food and calcium for birds, amphibians, reptiles, small mammals and other invertebrates. Snail shells are the primary calcium source for some bird species. Declines in snail abundance have been linked to population declines in songbirds.

The San Gabriel chestnut snail was discovered in 1938. It is now being studied by the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum, which runs a citizen-science project called SLIME, or Snails and slugs Living in Metropolitan Environments, that aims to catalogue the diversity of terrestrial gastropods in Southern California.

This snail is of great significance from a natural history standpoint because it is one of only two species in its taxonomic group, the other being the San Diego chestnut snail.

San Gabriel chestnut

 

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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