[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 143 (Tuesday, July 26, 2011)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 44566-44569]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-18855]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[FWS-R3-ES-2011-0025; MO 92210-0-0008-B2]

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 12-Month Finding 
on a Petition To List the Frigid Ambersnail as Endangered

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of 12-month petition finding.


SUMMARY: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a 12-
month finding on a petition to list the frigid ambersnail (Catinella 
gelida) under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). 
After reviewing all available scientific and commercial information, we 
find that listing the frigid ambersnail is not warranted because 
currently living individuals that were identified as frigid ambersnails 
do not constitute a unique and valid, currently living taxon; 
therefore, it is not considered to be a listable entity under the Act.

DATES: The finding announced in this document was made July 26, 2011.

ADDRESSES: This finding is available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov at Docket Number FWS-R3-ES-2011-0025. The complete 
file for this finding is available for inspection, by appointment, 
during normal business hours at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 
Rock Island

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Ecological Services Field Office, 1511 47th Avenue, Moline, IL 61265; 
phone (309) 757-5800. Please submit any new information, materials, 
comments, or questions concerning this species or this finding to the 
above street address.

    Individuals who are hearing-impaired or speech-impaired may call 
the Federal Relay Service at 1-800-877-8337 for TTY assistance, 24 
hours a day, 7 days a week.



    Section 4(b)(3)(B) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) requires 
that, for any petition to revise the Federal Lists of Threatened and 
Endangered Wildlife and Plants that contains substantial scientific or 
commercial information that listing a species may be warranted, we make 
a finding within 12 months of the date of receipt of the petition. In 
this finding, we determine whether the petitioned action is: (a) Not 
warranted, (b) warranted, or (c) warranted, but immediate proposal of a 
regulation implementing the petitioned action is precluded by other 
pending proposals to determine whether species are endangered or 
threatened, and expeditious progress is being made to add or remove 
qualified species from the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife and Plants. Section 4(b)(3)(C) of the Act requires that we 
treat a petition for which the requested action is found to be 
warranted but precluded as though resubmitted on the date of such 
finding, that is, requiring a subsequent finding to be made within 12 
months. We must publish these 12-month findings in the Federal 

Previous Federal Actions

    Federal action for the frigid ambersnail began on July 30, 2007, 
after we received a petition dated July 24, 2007, from Forest Guardians 
(now WildEarth Guardians) requesting that the Service: (1) Consider all 
full species in our mountain-prairie region ranked as G1 or G1G2 by the 
organization NatureServe, except those that are currently listed, 
proposed for listing, or candidates for listing; and (2) list each 
species as either endangered or threatened (Forest Guardians 2007, pp. 
1-37). We acknowledged the receipt of the petition in a letter to the 
Forest Guardians, dated August 24, 2007 (Slack 2007, p. 1). In that 
letter we stated, based on preliminary review, that we found no 
compelling evidence to support an emergency listing for any of the 
species covered by the petition.
    On March 19, 2008, WildEarth Guardians filed a complaint (1:08-CV-
472-CKK) indicating that the Service had failed to make 90-day petition 
findings under section 4 of the Act for the 206 mountain-prairie 
species, including the frigid ambersnail. On February 5, 2009, we 
published a 90-day finding (74 FR 6122) for 165 of the 206 mountain-
prairie species, which did not include the frigid ambersnail. On March 
13, 2009, the Service and WildEarth Guardians filed a stipulated 
settlement in the District of Columbia Court, agreeing that the Service 
would submit to the Federal Register a finding as to whether WildEarth 
Guardians' petition presented substantial information indicating that 
the petitioned action may be warranted for 38 mountain-prairie region 
species by August 9, 2009 (WildEarth Guardians v. Salazar 2009, case 
1:08-CV-472-CKK). On August 18, 2009, we published a 90-day finding (74 
FR 41649) for 38 mountain-prairie region species, and initiated status 
reviews on 29 of those species, including the frigid ambersnail.
    On January 8, 2010, WildEarth Guardians filed a complaint 
indicating that the Service had failed to complete a 12-month finding 
on the frigid ambersnail, and on January 20, 2010, they filed an 
amended complaint. On June 29, 2010, this complaint was consolidated in 
the District of Columbia District Court along with 11 other individual 
cases filed by WildEarth Guardians, all related to multiple-species 
petitions. This litigation is currently unresolved.
    This notice constitutes the 12-month finding on the July 24, 2007, 
petition to list the frigid ambersnail as endangered.


    The frigid ambersnail is a prehistoric snail known from the 
Pleistocene period, which spanned from 1.8 million to approximately 
10,000 years ago. The species has an extensive fossil record. Based on 
that fossil record, its historical range included eight states: Iowa, 
Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, and New York 
(Frest 1991, p. 17). Individuals, that at the time were thought to be 
living specimens of frigid ambersnails, were subsequently found in the 
Black Hills of South Dakota and south of Green Bay in Wisconsin (Frest 
and Johannes 2002, pp. 73-74). Current, putative populations are only 
now known from Iowa, the Black Hills National Forest of South Dakota 
and, possibly, Wisconsin. Currently, taxonomy regarding these extant 
populations is unclear as to whether these are frigid ambersnails (as 
described from the prehistoric fossils) or members of a different, 
likely more common, taxon.


    Catinella gelida was initially described as a widespread 
prehistoric fossil. The genus Catinella belongs to phylum Mollusca, 
class Gastropoda, order Stylommatophora (terrestrial snails and slugs), 
and family Succineidae. Baker (1927, pp. 118-119) first described the 
fossil shell of the frigid ambersnail as a subspecies of Succinea 
grosvenorii (Baker 1927). Baker (1927) describes the fossil species as 
having a small (less than 10 mm (0.4 inches), elongated shell. The 
whorls (a single turn in the spiral of the shell) are convex and 
separated by deep sutures--the last whorl is small, flat-sided, and 
slightly convex. The spire (the part of the shell that consists of all 
of the whorls, except the body whorl) is long and acute with a rounded 
aperture (main opening of the shell) that is about half as long as the 
shell. The columella (central column inside the shell) is straight, 
gently curving to the parietal wall (margin of the aperture and part of 
the wall of the body whorl that is closest to the columella), and does 
not form a distinct angle. The slight callus (thickened calcareous 
deposit which may be present on the parietal wall of the aperture of 
the adult shell) is spread over the parietal wall. The sculpture 
(ornamentation on the outer surface of the shell) is fine with vertical 
striae (thin, narrow grooves).
    Thirty-six years after Baker (1927) first described the species, 
the fossil form was reclassified as distinct from Succinea grosvenori 
and retained as a separate species named Catinella gelida by Leslie 
Hubricht (Hubricht 1963, pp. 137-138). As Hubricht (1963, p.137) 
stated: ``This species [Succinea grosvenori gelida], is certainly not 
related to Succinea grosvenori as now understood. Some shells resemble 
a slender Catinella vermeta (Say), and others resemble shells of 
Catinella wandae (Webb) from Grand Teton National Park, Teton County, 
Wyoming, and it is possible that the name gelida has been applied to 
more than one species. In view of the impossibility of demonstrating 
the relationship to either of the above species by anatomical studies, 
Catinella gelida is here retained as a separate species.'' As Hubricht 
states, identification of the fossil form used fossil shell 
characterics only.
    In 1985, Terrence Frest (1985, p. 4) described what was thought to 
be the first live specimen of the frigid ambersnail from the carbonate 
cliffs of Iowa. The basis for his identification was geologic location 
and shell

[[Page 44568]]

morphology. Prior to this, the species was thought to only occur in 
fossil form. What were thought to be additional relic populations were 
then identified in the Black Hills of South Dakota and south of Green 
Bay in Wisconsin (Frest and Johannes 2002, pp. 73-74).
    Frest's (1991, p. 16) described the physical appearance of 
individuals in those relic populations by expanding on Baker's (1927, 
pp. 118-119) description of the fossil form of frigid ambersnail. 
However, Frest's (1991, p. 16) description still provides information 
on the shell only, stating that ``Live specimens are slightly smaller 
on average than fossil (e.g., average length 7.0 rather than 7.0-8.0 
mm), but otherwise identical. In life the color is a peculiar light 
yellow-green; the body is dark grey to nearly black. The sculpture on 
both fossil and recent specimens is rather stronger than in most 
    A number of researchers (e.g., Patterson 1971, p. 133; Grimm 1996, 
p. 1; Coles and Walsh 1999, p. 32; Pigati et al. 2010, p. 5) have 
suggested that for accurate identification of species of living land 
snails within the Succineidae family, supporting anatomical information 
is critical in addition to morphological information. Patterson (1971, 
p. 133) stated the following in his taxonomic studies of the land 
snail's family Succineidae, ``The taxonomic placement of most species 
of the Succineidae is still based largely on shell characters, which, 
because of little diversity and considerable convergence, give only 
fragmentary or unreliable aid in systematic analyses. Currently, 
features of the male and female reproductive tract, the radula and jaw, 
and to some extent, patterns of pigmentation, are being used to 
characterize some genera and species. However, to date, only a very few 
species have been studied with regard to such morphological characters, 
which leaves the systematics of the Succineidae in an inadequate and 
confused state.''
    Grimm (1996, p. 1) and Coles and Walsh (1999, p. 32) also 
considered the use of additional anatomical features, such as genitalic 
structure, to be crucial for the accurate identification of extant 
Catinella species. Pigati et al. (2010, p. 5) recently described the 
need for additional morphological characteristics to distinguish among 
species for the Succineidae family and the genus Catinella: ``In the 
fossil record, species-level identification of fossil shells is 
possible for most small terrestrial gastropods and, therefore, the 
results of our investigation of modern gastropods can be applied 
directly to the fossil record. An exception is the Succineidae family, 
which is composed of three genera (Catinella, Oxyloma, and Succinea) 
that are difficult to differentiate in modern faunas. Their simple 
shells exhibit few diagnostic characteristics and, therefore, species-
level identification is based on soft-body reproductive organ 
morphology, which is rarely preserved in the fossil record.''
    In 2002, Frest and Johannes acknowledged the difficulty of using a 
fossil form as the originally described specimen of frigid ambersnail 
to identify living individuals. However, they continued to support the 
species classification, stating that, ``as it happens, shell characters 
of C. gelida are sufficiently distinctive as to make it unlikely to be 
confused with other described North American succineids. Preliminary 
dissections of specimens from the Iowa-Minnesota colonies confirm 
placement of those specimens in Catinella. The body color is unlike any 
other described species. The few live South Dakota specimens seen 
appear identical in morphology to those from Iowa'' (Frest and Johannes 
2002, p. 70). Although Frest and Johannes (2002, p. 7) have stated that 
fossil shell morphological characteristics alone were adequate to 
classify a living specimen, current researchers (such as Anderson 
(2005) and Nekola (2009, 2010) (see below)) do not support this 
    Anderson (2005) examined Catinella-like shells in Wind Cave 
National Park, South Dakota. In her analysis, she identified the 
Catinella specimens to genus level only, noting the conflicting opinion 
on the use of shell characteristics for identification to species level 
(Anderson 2005, p. 189). She cites Burch (1962) and Hoagland and Davis 
(1987) as cautioning against using such characteristics alone in 
identifying species in this taxonomic family.
    Jeffrey Nekola is a professor with the University of New Mexico and 
is considered an expert in land snails, has authored numerous 
publications on the topic, and has field experience with fauna of the 
carbonate cliffs of Iowa and the surrounding area. Nekola indicated 
several issues with the classification of the living frigid ambersnail 
in response to our publication of a 90-day finding (74 FR 41649) and 
initiation of status review on a petition to list the frigid ambersnail 
(Catinella gelida) as endangered. Nekola (2010, pers. comm.) stated 
that there is not a published account of a dissection of the frigid 
ambersnail. Nekola has examined living snail soft body parts from 
ambersnails (from Nekola 1998 and 2003) that met the description of the 
fossil frigid ambersnail (as described by Frest 1991). He (Nekola pers. 
comm. 2010) subsequently analyzed this material and found the soft body 
parts to be similar to those found in the slope ambersnail (C. wandae). 
In addition, Nekola (2009, p. 103) questions the validity of using soft 
body parts for the taxonomic identification of species in this genus. 
He notes that the structure of the genitalia in this group of snails is 
highly variable and that, looking at genitalia, individuals may 
resemble different species as they pass through various stages of 
development from embryo to adult (Nekola 2009, p. 103). This is 
supported by Coles (2010, pers. comm.), who stated that based on his 
own work, the relative size and development of the male Catinella 
genital appendix can vary with age.
    Because of the difficulty in defining characteristic soft parts, 
Nekola now believes that the only positive way to distinguish species 
in Catinella's group is to look at genetic data within and between 
populations, at the species and genus levels (Nekola 2009, p. 103). 
Ostlie (2009, p. 51) supports obtaining additional information, such as 
analysis of DNA, to confirm identification of the species.
    Based on the best available current scientific information, the 
validity of the frigid ambersnail as an extant species has reasonably 
been questioned. The frigid ambersnail (Catinella gelida) is not 
recognized as a valid extant species or subspecies by the Integrated 
Taxonomic Information System (ITIS 2011) or the Council of Systematic 
Malacologists and the American Malacological Union (Turgeon et al. 
1998, p. 143). Uncertainties regarding taxonomic classification remain 
not only for the genus Catinella, but also for members of the snail 
family Succineidae. In recent analyses, species designation for members 
of this family has been determined to be too questionable to 
differentiate the species using shell appearance and location alone 
(Burch 1962, p. 67; Hoagland and Davis 1987, pp. 518-519; Anderson 
2005, p. 189; Nekola 2003b, p. 8; Barthel and Nekola 2000, p. 24). 
Furthermore, using soft body parts to identify species in this snail 
family also appears questionable, especially as the characteristics of 
those body parts change as the individuals mature (Nekola 2009, p. 103; 
Coles 2010, pers. comm.).
    In summary, the taxonomic identity of the extant snails that have 
been referred to as the ``frigid ambersnail'' has been substantially 
questioned in recent years. While some individual researchers

[[Page 44569]]

continue to recognize currently living individuals of ambersnail as 
Catinella gelida, this entity is not widely recognized as an extant 
species or subspecies by the scientific community at this time. The 
type of additional information that may permit a formal description may 
include a more thorough description of an extant type specimen, an 
evaluation of various lines of evidence (morphological, ecological, 
biogeographical, genetic) relevant to its taxonomic status, resolution 
of any discrepancies in taxonomic nomenclature, or a combination of 
these (e.g., Weaver 2006, pp. 49-65), and that the taxon be accepted as 
valid by widely recognized sources (e.g., Turgeon et al. 1998, entire; 
ITIS 2010).
    Therefore, we find based on the best information available, that 
Catinella gelida is not a modern living (extant) species. Catinella 
gelida was described from a fossil, and the most current information 
now indicates that the currently living specimens that were classified 
as frigid ambersnail were likely misclassified, and are likely not 
Catinella gelida. The taxonomy of these living ambersnails is 
uncertain. Catinella gelida itself, as described from the fossil 
specimen, likely exists only in fossil form, and the currently living 
individuals likely belong to a different taxon. Therefore, we find that 
the currently living specimens, that were previously thought to be 
frigid ambersnail, are not valid taxonomically. Although additional 
study could affect the taxonomic conclusion of this finding, the 
taxonomic identity of the modern living (extant) frigid ambersnail has 
not been confirmed as of this date by current species experts.


    We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial 
information available regarding the taxonomic status of the frigid 
ambersnail (Catinella gelida). We reviewed the petition, available 
published and unpublished scientific and commercial information, and 
information submitted to us during the information collection period on 
our status review following our 90-day finding. We also consulted with 
recognized experts. The frigid ambersnail is not recognized as an 
extant species or subspecies by the scientific community, and the 
taxonomic status of extant specimens is currently uncertain. The named 
petitioned entity, Catinella gelida, is extinct and only exists in 
fossil form. Modern, existing populations, that were originally 
described as C. gelida, are not C. gelida, and their taxonomic identity 
remains uncertain. Consequently, the Service does not at this time 
consider the petitioned entity, the frigid ambersnail, to be a listable 
entity under section 3(16) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1532(16)). The Service 
encourages additional scientific investigations that will resolve the 
significant uncertainties concerning the taxonomy of frigid ambersnail. 
Because we have concluded the frigid ambersnail is not a listable 
entity, we will not further evaluate this ambersnail under section 
4(a)(1) of the Act. On the basis of this review, we find that listing 
the frigid ambersnail as endangered or threatened is not warranted 
because the frigid ambersnail does not meet the definition of a 
``species'' under the Act.

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited herein is available on the 
Internet at http://www.regulations.gov and upon request from the Field 
Supervisor at the Rock Island Ecological Services Office (see ADDRESSES 


    The primary authors of this document are the staff members of the 
Rock Island Ecological Services Field Office, Moline, Illinois (see 
ADDRESSES section).

    Authority: The authority for this action is the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated: July 13, 2011.
David Cottingham,
Acting Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2011-18855 Filed 7-25-11; 8:45 am]