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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation Partner to Recover Federally Endangered Snail

Region 3, April 9, 2014
Mike Coffey of the USFWS takes a temperture reading while searching for Iowa Pleistocene snails
Mike Coffey of the USFWS takes a temperture reading while searching for Iowa Pleistocene snails - Photo Credit: n/a
Can you find the Iowa Pleistocene snails?
Can you find the Iowa Pleistocene snails? - Photo Credit: n/a

The Driftless Area National Wildlife Refuge and the Rock Island Field Office are working with the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation to recover the federally endangered Iowa Pleistocene snail (Discus maclintocki).

The refuge and field office received $173,000 from the Service's Cooperative Recovery Initiative, a highly competitive grant. The grant money will be used to recover this endangered species through monitoring known populations and surveying for new ones. The Service set up a cooperative agreement with the Foundation, which will hire biological technicians to conduct the surveys.

The Iowa Pleistocene snail is a glacial relict species that has survived for over 400,000 years. Once known only in the fossil record, it was discovered in the early 20th century living on the algific talus slopes of northeast Iowa and listed as endangered in 1977.

Algific (cold air) talus (loose rock) slopes are a unique ecosystem, occurring only in the Driftless Area of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Vents located on the slopes produce cold (40 degree F) air throughout the summer, creating cold soil microhabitats that support a unique assemblage of species, including the snail and the federally threatened northern monkshood, a plant.

The Iowa Pleistocene snail survives solely on the algific talus slopes of northeast Iowa and northwestern Illinois. The partners hope that through this intensive monitoring effort, six new snail colonies on protected sites will be discovered, which would meet the delisting criteria outlined in the snail's recovery plan, and potentially lead to the delisting of the snail.

Contact Info: Drew Becker, 309-757-5800 ext. 216, drew_becker@fws.gov