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Captive Breeding: Endangered Snails Recover In New York

Sep 30, 2015 04:47 PM EDT
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There may be hope for the endangered Chittenango ovate amber snail (COAS), according to the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF). Since June, researchers have successfully bred more than 600 baby snails in captivity. ESF has worked alongside partners, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS), to ensure the snail's recovery. 

This species of snail, also called "Chit," is only found alongside Chittenango Falls, about 22 miles southeast of Syracuse, New York. They specifically thrive in a spray zone of the waterfall, a moist and warm environment.

"It has been important for us to understand what the Chittenango ovate amber snail needs for long-term survival," Cody Gilbertson, a graduate student who has worked on breeding the snails in Dr. Rebecca Rundell's lab, said in a news release. "We have studied their habitat and simulated the conditions in the lab for an optimal rearing environment. This backup population can supplement their wild population and prevent extinction in case of an unplanned, destructive event such as a storm, rockslide, or drought."

In 2006, the snails' population drastically declined following a rockslide. Now, researchers monitor their habitats every year in an attempt to boost populations. The snails have an opaque egg-shaped, amber-colored shell and feed on the microscopic fungi and debris of nearby rocks and vegetation.

"The work being done through this project is greatly refining our understanding of how this animal lives and what its needs are for successful management of its habitat," Kathleen O'Brien, a Wildlife Biologist from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), said in the release. "This may be important not only for the COAS in New York but for preservation of other rare species of snails in trouble across the globe."

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-Follow Samantha on Twitter @Sam_Ashley13

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