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'Extinct' Snail Reappears

Sep 09, 2014 11:45 AM EDT
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A snail officially declared extinct seven years ago has apparently resurfaced, to the joy of conservationists everywhere.

The Aldabra banded snail (Rhachistia aldabrae) is a small mollusk native to the Indian Ocean island nation of Seychelles. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, the banded snail was abundant across the Aldabra atoll - a UNESCO World Heritage Site - in the 1970s, but faced a rapid decline as early as the 1980s. The last individual snail was seen in 1997, and after extensive searches for the snail's survival, it was declared that the species had gone extinct by the end of 2006.

It is thought that climate change (especially dry weather) and its resulting rising sea levels were a major threat to the snail, with its extinction hurried along by rat predation.

However, now experts are reporting that the snail was rediscovered on Aug. 23, according to The Associated Press (AP), and conservationists are celebrating this happy surprise.

According to the AP, a research team from the Seychelles Islands Foundation found seven of the purple-and-pink striped snails in all, with Shane Brice being the first to notice the "extinct" snail crawling about.

"I was so surprised; no one (on the expedition) had ever seen the snail before," Brice said. "It's quite amazing."

The discovery was reportedly confirmed after mollusk experts Vincent Florens and Pat Matyot examined photos the team captured.

Stuart Pimm, a conservation ecology professor at Duke University, noted that although this is great news, the snail likely would not have been missed.

However, he added, "we simply do not know what species are going to do for us in an economic sense. Probably from the time that somebody baked the first loaf of bread, a housewife said, 'I hate bread mold and I wish it would disappear forever.' And of course we know the scientific name of bread mold is penicillin."

This isn't the first time an extinct species has reemerged in a very niche habitat either. Nature World News previously reported how a nocturnal snake was rediscovered in a small island just off the coast of Mexico.

However, in both cases, conservationists note that they don't know how long the animals really can survive. Their habitats are shrinking fast, and surrounded by saltwater on all sides, the snake and the snail alike have nowhere to go.

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