Freshwater Snail: Call It a Comeback

The Oblong Rocksnail was long thought to be extinct until a University of Alabama graduate student rediscovered the long-lost species in the Cahaba River. The snail, about the size of a nickel with a yellow body and a black band on its head, had not been collected in more than 75 years.

Nathan Whelan, the student who made the discovery, says that the animal’s range has been dramatically shortened, making it “very susceptible” to a single event wiping it out forever. Once found along an approximate 50-mile-stretch from Buck Creek in Helena, down the Cahaba River to Centerville, the snail’s range now appears to be limited to approximately one-half mile.

With the help of other researchers, as well as the Alabama Aquatic Biodiversity Center (AABC), hopes are high of establishing a second population of the snails at a different location within its original range.

The Nature Conservancy named the Cahaba as one of eight “hotspots of aquatic biodiversity” in the US that must be saved.