Oblong Rocksnail Frequently Asked Questions

Questions & Answers

Oblong Rocksnail Frequently Asked Questions

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to list the oblong rocksnail as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. If you have questions, you can find your answers here!

What action is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposing?

We are proposing the listing of the oblong rocksnail as an endangered species.

What does endangered mean?

Under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), a species may be listed as either endangered or threatened. Endangered means a species is likely in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.

What is the oblong rocksnail?

The oblong rocksnail is a narrow-ranging freshwater snail historically restricted to the Cahaba River Basin in Bibb and Shelby Counties. It is about the size of a nickel with a yellow-green shell and black bands on its head.

What is the historical range of the oblong rocksnail and how did it change?

The oblong rocksnail is endemic to the Cahaba River Watershed. The available information indicates that the oblong rocksnail is currently restricted to approximately 11 percent of its historically known range in the Cahaba River. The species has been extirpated from 44.4 river miles (71.5 km) and is currently found in 5.7 river miles (9.2 km) from Old Marvel Slab upstream to Booth’s Ford. The linear arrangement of all known sites where the species occurs could potentially lead to its extirpation should a catastrophic event occur upstream of the occupied reach. 

What do oblong rocksnails eat?

Oblong rocksnails are grazers and occur on large boulders and bedrock, typically toward the middle of the river. These large flat rocks provide periphyton (organisms attached to underwater surfaces, upon which snails may feed) for food.

Why are oblong rocksnails disappearing?

Excessive sedimentation, agricultural activities, urban runoff, and stormwater runoff have damaged water quality along tributaries of the Cahaba River.

What do oblong rocksnails need to survive?

Oblong rocksnails need clean free-flowing water to survive. Restricted to shoal habitat, you can find them attached to boulders and bedrock within the Cahaba River Watershed. Oblong rocksnails require a mix of algae and bacteria attached to rocks as their food source and specific water temperatures for their eggs to survive.

What ongoing conservation efforts are being done for the oblong rocksnail?

The oblong rocksnail is currently ranked as a priority 1 (highest conservation concern) species of greatest conservation need by the Alabama Department of Conservation and National Resources (ADCNR) which is recognized in the state’s Wildlife Action Plan. The State Wildlife Grant Program provides Federal grant funds to ADCNR to develop and implement programs that benefit species of greatest conservation need and their habitats. Culturing the species, as a part of reintroduction efforts, began in 2020 with the ADCNR. A total of 220 oblong rocksnail brood stock were collected from a shoal and brought back to the Alabama Aquatic Biodiversity Center (AABC). 

Multiple landholdings in the Cahaba River watershed offer conservation and habitat protection. The Service’s Cahaba National Wildlife Refuge (5.8 square miles) and the William R. Ireland, Sr. - Cahaba River Wildlife Management Area and Cahaba River Shelby County Park Forever Wild Land (61.5 square miles) are within the range of the oblong rocksnail. The Nature Conservancy oversees 480 acres of land, known as the “Glades” (The Kathy Stiles Freeland Bibb County Glades Preserve), located along the Little Cahaba River as well. 

The Alabama Rivers and Streams Network (a group of non-profit organizations, private companies, state and federal agencies, and concerned citizens) identified the Cahaba River watershed as a priority watershed (a Strategic Habitat Unit or SHU) for its imperiled species. As part of this process, the Cahaba River SHU will benefit from this cooperative initiative by targeted restoration efforts and funding from multiple groups and agencies. The initiative in this watershed is aimed at improving water and habitat quality for the benefit of conserving and restoring species.  

The Service in partnership with the Geological Survey of Alabama, ADCNR, and the Cawaco Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Council developed a project titled Baseline assessment of the Cahaba River SHU to inform future restoration and reintroduction opportunities. The project, funding provided in part by the Service’s Conservation Fund, began in 2022, and is funded through 2024.