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Tumbling Creek Cavesnail (Antrobia culveri)
The Tumbling Creek cavesnail has been listed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as an endangered species. Endangered species are animals and plants that are in danger of becoming extinct. Threatened species are animals and plants that are likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future. Identifying, protecting, and restoring endangered and threatened species are the primary objectives of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services endangered species program.
What is the Tumbling Creek Cavesnail?
The Tumbling Creek cavesnail is a small (1/10 inch long) aquatic snail that lives in a stream that flows through Tumbling Creek Cave. Typical of many cave-dwelling species, it is blind and pale-colored. The body is white and the shell is pale yellow and has three whorls.
This snail is known only from Tumbling Creek and a few of its small tributaries and underground springs within Tumbling Creek Cave and downstream to Big Creek at Schoolhouse Spring. Tumbling Creek Cave is in Taney County in southwestern Missouri.
The Tumbling Creek cavesnail lives on the underside of large rocks in areas of Tumbling Creek that have little or no silt. Not much is known about the species and its life history, but it is thought to feed on microscopic animals in the stream. The cavesnail occurs in areas of the cave stream that are adjacent to large deposits of bat guano, so it is thought that they may be dependent, indirectly, on the deposits.
Monitoring of population trends during the last six years revealed a continued and accelerated decline. A March 2001 thorough survey of all available and accessible habitat yielded only 40 individuals. Surveys conducted from May 2001 through May 2002 found no snails in the established survey area and only a few individuals in a location upstream from the main survey area.
Why is the Tumbling Creek cavesnail endangered?
Exact reasons for the alarming decline in the cavesnails population numbers are currently unknown but the following are thought to be contributing factors:
Poor Water Quality
The cavesnail may be threatened by actions in the caves recharge area (the area of land that feeds water to the cave stream) that degrade Tumbling Creeks water quality. Turbidity in the stream - a possible threat to the snails - has noticeably increased over time. This is possibly due to increased erosion caused by the removal of streamside vegetation and livestock overgrazing on steep slopes within the recharge area. Other potential sources of pollution include the drainage of barnyard and feedlot wastes and the discharge of treated sewage into sinkholes. Accidental chemical spills and dumping trash into sinkholes also threaten Tumbling Creeks water quality. Turbidity and pollution may harm the cavesnails directly, or may somehow allow other cave stream animals to out compete the snails.
Tumbling Creek Cave is about 30 miles from Branson, Missouri, which is a rapidly expanding residential and tourist area. It is likely that there will be increased demands for recreational and residential development within the caves recharge zone, as Branson expands and people continue to visit the area.
What is being done to prevent extinction of the Tumbling Creek cavesnail?
The Tumbling Creek cavesnail has been added to the U.S. List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants, providing the protection of the Endangered Species Act. Additionally, under the ESA 25 acres were designated as Critical Habitat.
Population numbers of the Tumbling Creek cavesnail have been regularly monitored since 1996 using a standardized sampling protocol.
Recharge zone mapped
The caves owner, an expert cave hydrologist and geologist, mapped the recharge zone of the cave; this may help identify the source of threats within the recharge area and pinpoint areas where conservation actions are needed.
The cave and 395 adjoining acres were designated as a National Landmark and included on the National Registry of Natural Landmarks. About 25 percent of the recharge zone is owned and managed by the USDA Forest Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Private landowners in other parts of the recharge area are reducing erosion and pollution of the underground water system by stabilizing stream banks, re-establishing vegetation in overgrazed areas, and removing trash from gullies.
What can I do to help prevent the extinction of species?
Learn more about the Tumbling Creek cavesnail, why cave stream systems are barometers of aquifer water quality, and why cave streams should be protected. Tell others about what you have learned.
Protect water quality by minimizing use of lawn and pasture chemicals (i.e., fertilizers, herbicides, and insecticides), recycling used car oil, and properly disposing of paint and other toxic household products.
Join a conservation group, many have local chapters, or volunteer at a local National Wildlife Refuge, nature center, or zoo.
Last updated: April 1, 2014