BioBlitz

Mollusks

 

Cayuga Nature Center   Smith Woods   Total species found
  1 6       0     1 6

 

Most species observed were introduced, with some considered invasive. Only four of 17, or less than one-quarter, of the species observed during BioBlitz were native to North America. Snails and slugs don’t travel far by their own volition but can be spread far and wide by other factors. Populations of a slug or snail species can easily be isolated by geophysical factors such as hills and bodies of water, which contributes to the evolution of novel species. The dispersal of some of the widely distributed land mollusks in the area studied was probably due to flooding, as rafts of coarse woody debris can harbor snails, and smaller species can hitch rides on the feet of birds or hooves of deer. Sometimes the diversity in an area like Cayuga Nature Center and Smith Woods is due to the introduction of European species.

More than likely, introduced and invasive snails and slugs were stowaways on the ships of the earliest Europeans to arrive in North America for any time plants and produce are transported, there is a risk of bringing snails and slugs with them. Today, human-disturbed areas are often abundant with introduced/invasive species, which survive in a wider range of habitats than our native species, sometimes resulting in their displacement.

Humble snails and slugs are often overlooked, yet they are vital species residing close to the bottom of the food web, snails and slugs act as the clean-up crews of the ecosystem, mostly consuming decaying vegetation and fungi, from which they glean essential nutrients, then in turn they become prey for a wide variety of other animals, including beetles, frogs, salamanders, snakes, turtles, birds, rodents, shrews, and other mammals. Without calcium and other vital minerals from snails and slugs, the ecosystem would not last long. Every little species matters.

The flamed tigersnail is one of the few native species found in the BioBlitz. The flamed tigersnail, Anguispira alternata relatively large (shell width up to 23 mm), flashy land snail has a wide distribution in the eastern half of North America, from southern areas of Canada down to the northern parts of the Gulf states, and west to Iowa and Missouri. This species can be found in mixed hardwood forests in the leaf litter and under logs and rocks. Morphometric and genetic work since 2008 reveal much variation in this species, suggesting cryptic species that are not easy to identify from shell characters alone (Clutts, 2008).

Participants

Team Mollusks consisted of team leader Marla Coppolino and six volunteers: Lucy Gagliardo, Susan Wilson, Carol Vanderkarr, Rose Osborn, David Bullis, Jesse Czekanski-Moir. The team effort really helped! With a search for mostly tiny, brownish snails, it took several pairs of eyes to find them in the leaf litter. Some snails could only be found under the dissecting scope after sorting through many bags of leaf litter.