Save Italian Snails from extinction

Developing an Ex-situ captive breeding and reintroduction project for endangered and critically endangered snails.

Molluscs are often unknown to the audience nevertheless their role to the mosaic of biodiversity. Friend of the Earth, an international association for the certification of sustainable agricultural products, in collaboration with the Zoology Section of the Museum of Natural History in Florence, has developed the Italian Snails Conservation Project for the protection and the conservation of endangered molluscs that are endemic to the Tuscan region,namely Xerosecta giustii and Melanopsis etrusca. These two species of molluscs are extremely vulnerable, mainly due to their limited distribution and the progressive destruction of their natural habitat.

Meadows with predominantly scrublands vegetation is Xerosecta giustii natural habitat.

Melanopsis etrusca is an endemic freshwater gastropod of Southern Tuscany, whose distribution is linked to sources of thermal-mineral waters.

Distribution of M. etrusca (blue) at the beginning of the 20th Century (left) and current distribution (right). Distribution of X. giustii (red). Of the 11 populations of M. etrusca reported at the beginning of the 20th Century, only 6 have survived to date, of which at least 2 are currently threatened and close to disappearing, thus reducing the populations to 4. The distribution of X. giustii is the only known since 1994; it occupies a surface area of not more than 100 m2, and it is threatened due to the destruction of a large part of its habitat.

Project purposes

To take effective conservation measures aiming at the preservation the remaining populations and species habitat project aims are in particular: in-depth analysis of the biology of the two species; study about the genetic variability of relict populations; launch of ex-situ breeding facilities for the creation of biobanks; protection and redevelopment of the habitats in which the species live; educational and awareness events for the public and eco-friendly initiatives for the development of tourism and enhancement of the various areas.

Experimental breeding

The reproduction of this biosphere represents a true “biological bank”, within which selected Xerosecta giustii specimen will be bred in order for them to reproduce. In the event of natural disasters or destruction of their natural habitat, these specimens will be released into the wild thus reducing the risk of extinction of the species. A terrarium set up in the La Specola garden at the Museum of Natural History in Florence and the breeding facility in Campagnatico (GR) will represent privileged observation points in order to obtain valuable information about the almost unknown biology of these species.

 

Why support Us

Snails are fundamental for the ecosystem a they are eaten by birds, mammals and reptiles. They are particularly sensible to ecosystem changes and more vulnerable. The project, with limited investment and partially funded by Friend of the Earth, will allow these snails populations to recover. An important achievement with limited funds. We will keep you informed on project development.

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