Not-So-Small Extinction

Its no secret that many of Earth's species are in danger of extinction. With a mixture of pollution, land use, and deforestation, we have made it impossible for some species to survive on this Earth. And that includes even the smallest, and most humble of species.

Credit: Scientific American

Scientific American reports that snails, in their many forms, are in danger of extinction. For example, U.S. conservation groups are petitioning that the oblong rocksnail be added to the list of endangered species. In New Zealand, a snail known as Rhytida oconnori is discovered to be constrained to a one square kilometer space.

The issue is very real. In fact, a Malaysian cement company may already have caused the extinction of three snail species.

Why it Matters

This is particularly depressing news, especially since snails have plenty to offer scientists and the Earth. Obviously, they serve as an important part of the food chain, eating fungi and leaf litter, and being eaten by birds and fish.

But perhaps, more importantly, they can tell us a lot about the state of nature. Their shells, made of calcium carbonate, hold a record of the area around them. This tells researchers about environmental changes and ecological communities that may not have been observed before.

Further, the presence of snails in a particular area itself tells a lot about that area. Snails have very strict requirements about the places they hang out, specific moisture, shade, and decaying matter. So when they start disappearing from a certain place, it means something about that environment is changing.

But with them facing extinction, the stories snails tell may soon draw to a close.

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