When most people say endangered species, they think about supermodels of the animal kingdom, like polar bears and tigers. But in order to know that an animal is going extinct, you have to know that it exists. Contrary to popular belief, we’re only aware of a small percentage of life, animal or otherwise, on this planet. Sadly, some are going extinct before we get a chance to learn about them at all.
In mid-2013, a group of international scientists were stunned to discover not one but three new species of snails living in northern Thailand. Snails have the reputation of being rather boring: they’re small, slow and not very flashy. The newly discovered species weren’t your run of the mill snail, however.
“The snails belong to the family Streptaxidae which is a terrestrial carnivorous group of snails known to feed on insect larvae, earthworms, and even other snails. These tiny snails less than 1 centimeter in size are found living within rock crevices, endemic to a single or few limestone mountain ranges in north and north-eastern Thailand,” reported Jemma Smith of Mongabay.
That’s right, predatory snails! As overjoyed as the scientists were to find the new snails–first snails in their genus Perrottetia to be described in over a century–their excitement almost immediately turned to fear.
“The species show extraordinary endemism, with each of these colorful snails occurring as ‘One Hill One Species.’ This is a very peculiar phenomenon where each one of these highly endemic snails is specific and the only one inhabiting a certain mountain range,” explains a press release.
Unfortunately, the limestone mountains where the snails live and hunt are being harvested by humans at an alarming rate. Limestone is a key ingredient in the steel, glass, cement and mortar industries, and is used as a soil conditioner to neutralize acidic soil conditions.
“More than 50 percent of limestone ecosystems in this region have been or still are being destroyed,” explains study co-author Dr. Somsak Panha in the release. “This astonishing case of biodiversity persistence gives a valuable reason to put effort in the conservation of this important world ecosystem.”
And the importance of biodiversity extends way beyond the plants and animals themselves. The United Nations has warned that failure to preserve biodiversity will have dire economic consequences and threatens our food security as well.
It just doesn’t seem right that Thailand’s newly discovered carnivorous snails should be exterminated so soon after we first learned of their existence. That’s why Care2 member Judith B. created a petition asking Thailand’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment not to let these intriguing snails disappear. Please add your name below and take a stand for global biodiversity.
Images via Dr. Somsak Panha