Extinct Mississippi snail rediscovered: landowner partnerships key to conservation success

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JACKSON, Miss. -- Scientists found a living population of an assumed extinct Mississippi freshwater snail, the Big Black rocksnail, according to a study published in Biodiversity and Conservation, March 25, 2024 

Scientists from the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service teamed up to search for the snail after finding a shell during a mollusk study in 2021. In October 2022, they found a large group of Big Black rocksnails in a privately owned and hard-to-reach part of the Big Black River in central Mississippi.

“The only way we would have been able to access such a remote site when water levels were low enough to adequately sample snails was with a private landowner granting us access to the river via their property,” said Nathan Whelan, Fish and Wildlife Biologist. “Without the access, Big Black rocksnails would likely still be considered extinct.”

Biologists sent 12 snails to genetics labs at the Warm Springs Fish Technology Center, Georgia, and Auburn University for more study. These results showed that there had been a large group of these snails living at the newly discovered site for thousands of years.

In 1989, scientists thought that the Big Black rocksnail disappeared due to a chemical spill after not being able to find it where they thought they lived. 

The new study suggested that when scientists look for these rare types of snails, they should sample as many sites as possible when conditions are good for finding the snails. It also advocated for policies that encourage partnerships with landowners, as it helped scientists rediscover the Big Black rocksnail. 

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit https://www.fws.gov/program/southeast-region. Connect with us on social media: FacebookXFlickr, and YouTube.

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Aquatic animals
Rivers and streams