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Two noonday globe snailsNoonday Globe in North Carolina

The noonday globe (Mesodon clarki nantahala ) , one of our nation's rarest land snails, is restricted to a small area of the Nantahala Gorge in Swain County, North Carolina. To help secure its continued existence, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service added this land snail, as a threatened species, to the Federal Endangered and Threatened Species List on July 3, 1978.

The noonday globe is a moderately sized (3/4 inch wide and 1/2 inch high) land snail. Its shell is shiny and reddish in color. The surface of the shell is sculptured with rather course lines. The area around the shell opening (aperture) is white, and a long curved ?tooth? is located on  the inside portion of the aperture. The animal?s body is black.  Because this snail is so rare and restricted in distribution, very little is known of its biology. The species? reproductive behavior is unknown, and its food habits are also mystery. However, other related - species in the genus Mesodon feed on the subsurface hair-like structures (mycelia) of fungi. The species appears to be most active during wet weather, when it is frequently found out on the surface of vegetation rather than under the leaf litter on the forest floor.  Snails are used as food by other animals.  Gnawed shells of a closely related snail, Mesodon clarki clarki, have been found in the dens of small rodents, and a very common carnivorous land snail, Haplotrema concavum, was observed eating a noonday globe.

The noonday globe, which is found in association with 29 other snail species, is known from only about 2 miles of high cliffs within the Nantahala Gorge. The cliffs in this region are very wet and intersected by many small streams and waterfalls. The forest is mature, with many large trees and adiverse plant community. The forest
floor has a thick, rich humus layer, and the area has many exposed calcarious (rich in calcium) rocks. Calcium, which is generally scarce in other cliffs in the
area, is vital to snails because it is a major component of their shells. The rich, moist calcium soils, and the mature forest community likely account for the tremendous
variety of snails that inhabit the area.

The noonday globe was likely never widely distributed. Steep wet slopes with calcareous rocks are rare in western North Carolina. However, the species was likely somewhat more widely distributed within the gorge before the gorge was altered for a railroad and a highway. Both projects altered the forest community along the river. The associated loss of the forest canopy allowed more sunlight to penetrate the gorge and likely dried the lower slope of the gorge. This habitat alteration also allowed such non-native plants as Kudzu and Japanese honeysuckle to invade some roadside areas, which changed the area?s natural plant and animal community.

Extinction is a natural process that has been occurring since long before the appearance of man. Normally, new species develop through a process known as speciation, at about the same rate that other species become extinct. However, because of air and water pollution, forest clearing, loss of wetlands, and other man-induced environmental changes, extinctions are now occurring at a rate that far exceeds the speciation rate. Each extinction diminishes the diversity and complexity of life on earth. The loss of a single species may result in few environmental repercussions; however all life on earth is interconnected.  If enough ?living connections? are broken, whole ecosystems could fail, the balance of nature could be forever altered, and our own survival could be jeopardized. Furthermore, the diversity of animal and plant life provides us with food and many of our life-saving medicines. When a species is lost, the benefits it may have provided are gone forever.

Be concerned with the preservation of the natural quality and biological diversity of the Nantahala Gorge. Watch for illegal dumping of waste, destruction of the natural cliff habitat, illegal collection of rare and federally protected species (It is a Federal offense punishable by as much as a $50,000 fine and one year in jail for taking a noonday snail), and changes in the quality of the gorge ecosystem. Report the occurrence of such events to the U.S. Forest Service.  The plant and animal life that inhabit natural places like Nantahala Gorge are now dependent on us for survival. These natural places with their diversity of life can benefit and be enjoyed by all of us; with our help, they can be there for future generations.

Species Distribution from known occurrences. Species may occur in similar habitats in other counties.Green counties indicate observed within 20 years. Yellow counties indicate an obscure data reference to the species in the county. Red counties indicate observed more than 20 years ago.

Species distribution of noonday globe snails in NC

Species Location Map based on information provided by the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program.
For additional information regarding this Web page, contact John Fridell, in Asheville, NC, at john_fridell@fws.gov

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