Endangered Species: Virginia Fringed Mountain Snail

A Christiansburg Elementary Project
Submitted by Beth Ann
Christiansburg Elementary School, Christiansburg, U.S.A.

Virginia Fringed  Mountain Snail

Photography courtesy of Virginia's Endangered Species

Why Study This Topic? What Was Already Known Search for Information Description of Plant or Animal Habitat Requirements
Adaptations Reasons for Endangerment Restoration Actions What Was Learned Conclusions from Research

Why Study This Topic?

  The animal I am researching for the endangered species project is the Virginia fringed mountain snail.[polygyriscus virginianus] The Virginia fringed mountain snail is a very rare species; the only living specimens were found on a 70 meter stretch of New River bluffs in Pulaski county, Virginia.

 For this report, I will tell about the habitat, shell, body, and anatomy of this rare species of mollusk. I will also tell some ways we could help protect and repopulate it. I believe that we must preserve its habitat, and let people know about the snails, or ignorant hikers or picnickers may come along and destroy habitats, without ever knowing what they did. We do not want to jeopardize the species more than it already is. We must protect the Virginia fringed mountain snail from extinction.
 

What Was Already Known

  Before beginning my research, I already knew quite a bit about mollusks. I also knew places and books where I could find information on them. The reason for endangerment for many mollusks is loss of habitat, pollution, and over collecting by scientists and other shell enthusiasts.

Search for Information

  My search has been a little difficult, since I have found only one article which talks about the Virginia fringed mountain snail in particular. I have found several books, however, that include information on close relatives of my snail, namely Simon and Schuster's Guide to Shells; and Seashells of North America has also helped me greatly. Where Endangered Species of Virginia left out on the appearance of the shell, I looked at pictures of its close relatives, and made educated guesses, just to put a picture in my mind of what this snail looks like.

 Also, looking at the painted polymita[polymita picta]a close relative of this species, helped me understand terms used to describe the shell in Endangered Species of Virginia.

 Later, I found an actual picture of the Virginia fringed mountain snail. It looked pretty close in looks to my guess.

 Also, the above books have helped me to figure out the anatomy of the snail. Because this is not a primitive mollusk, it does not have primitive characteristics in its anatomy.

 Here is the report I have put together with the research that I have gathered
 

Description

  The Virginia fringed mountain snail grows to a diameter of four millimeters in diameter, and can be as much as one and a half millimeters tall. It seems almost flat, like garden snail shells, but has a shallow umbilicus, or small indent or hole in the bottom of the shell, around which the whorls curve. The body whorl, or outer and usually biggest whorl, separates from the rest of the shell. It bends down at a sixty degree angle near the aperture, or opening, of the shell. Inside the aperture is one "tooth". The tooth makes the aperture seem heart-shaped.

 The shell seems almost colorless, but is a light, creamy hue. It is made of calcium, as are all mollusk shells. The animal grows by producing more shell material from glands on its body.

 While most people think of shells when they think of mollusks, it is important to remember that shells are only one part. They hide wonderful, amazing animals, each different and similar to each other in some way.

 Virginia fringed mountain snails [like other mollusks] has a body with four main parts: the head, the mantle, the visceral mass, and the foot.

 The head of the snail holds the eyes, mouth, and tentacles.

 The visceral mass holds the main organs and is like the "body" of the snail.

 The mantle secretes the shell material, and also envelopes the head in some times.

 The foot is what the animal uses to crawl on. It is like a big muscle, built to help the animal move from place to place.

 The shell also has four deep spiral lines on the whorls, called fringes. Hence, its name.
 

Habitat Requirements

  The habitat of the Virginia fringed mountain snail is always shaded, usually very heavily. It is found buried ten to sixty centimeters in soil. The soil is usually a mixture of limestone rubble and bits of clay. The area where the snail lies buried is often full of honeysuckle.

 One thing never present in habitats of the Virginia fringed mountain snail is humus.This could be for several reasons. It could be that by chance, Virginia fringed mountain snails never populated a humus rich area. Or, more likely, there is something in rich humus that irritates the snails, or that is dangerous to their health. Whatever the reason, Virginia fringed mountain snails are not found in rich humus.

 Here is a picture of a normal habitat for a Virginia fringed mountain snail.

 The snail lies buried under thirty five centimeters of soil, which is made up mostly of moist limestone fragments and pieces of red-orange clay. The place is shaded heavily from the hot light of the sun. Wild Honeysuckle grows all through the area, which faces the New River from a stretch of bluffs.

 It must be remembered that though surrounded by honeysuckle and smothered in shade, the only living specimens were found on a stretch of bluffs. Also, the majority of snails found were under a rock pile by a country road on the bluffs of the New River in Pulaski county, Virginia.

 One thing never present in habitats of the Virginia fringed mountain snail is humus.This could be for several reasons. It could be that by chance, Virginia fringed mountain snails never populated a humus rich area. Or, more likely, there is something in rich humus that irritates the snails, or that is dangerous to their health. Whatever the reason, Virginia fringed mountain snails are not found in rich humus.

 Here is a picture of a normal habitat for a Virginia fringed mountain snail.

 The snail lies buried under thirty five centimeters of soil, which is made up mostly of moist limestone fragments and pieces of red-orange clay. The place is shaded heavily from the hot light of the sun. Wild Honeysuckle grows all through the area, which faces the New River from a stretch of bluffs.

 It must be remembered that though surrounded by honeysuckle and smothered in shade, the only living specimens were found on a stretch of bluffs. Also, the majority of snails found were under a rock pile by a country road on the bluffs of the New River in Pulaski county, Virginia.

 One thing never present in habitats of the Virginia fringed mountain snail is humus.This could be for several reasons. It could be that by chance, Virginia fringed mountain snails never populated a humus rich area. Or, more likely, there is something in rich humus that irritates the snails, or that is dangerous to their health. Whatever the reason, Virginia fringed mountain snails are not found in rich humus.

 Here is a picture of a normal habitat for a Virginia fringed mountain snail.

 The snail lies buried under thirty five centimeters of soil, which is made up mostly of moist limestone fragments and pieces of red-orange clay. The place is shaded heavily from the hot light of the sun. Wild Honeysuckle grows all through the area, which faces the New River from a stretch of bluffs.

 It must be remembered that though surrounded by honeysuckle and smothered in shade, the only living specimens were found on a stretch of bluffs. Also, the majority of snails found were under a rock pile by a country road on the bluffs of the New River in Pulaski County, Virginia.
 

Adaptations

  The Virginia fringed mountain snail seems to have almost no reason for camouflage, since it lives underground. I could not find any information on what this animal eats or is eaten by. Perhaps there is some unknown predator underground. This has not been found, however, as far as I know.

 The Virginia fringed mountain snail has a quite interesting anatomy.

 Its digestive system is what I will explain first:

 Food enters the mouth. There teeth in the mouth, so there is a rough, platelike organ called the radula, which is supported up the throat. It serves as the first step in digestion. The food then travel down the throat to the stomach. Waste is excreted into the mantle cavity, or space between the mantle and the body.

 The circulatory system is significantly different than in humans. The heart has only one chamber. There are only a few large blood vessels, because mostly the blood flows freely through the body.

 Lungs are in the mantle cavity.

 While this species has a lot of protection from its shell and habitat, we must not forget that it is federally endangered, close to extinction, and that we must protect them.
 

Reasons for Endangerment

  The Virginia fringed mountain snail was listed as federally endangered on July third, 1978. Since, scientists have researched it a lot.

Restoration Actions

  One idea for saving the snail is to purchase the land on which it was found. No building or disruption would take place on the land. Scientists should also monitor the species to make sure it does not suddenly decline greatly in numbers.

 All of these things, I believe will help to restore the species. It is important that we do at least something. It would be a horrible shame to lose the Virginia fringed mountain snail to extinction.
 

What Was Learned

  I have learned a lot from this report that I did not know before. I learned just how endangered some endangered species are. There are a lot of animals that really need our help. We need to start helping all endangered species. We do not need to lose any more species. Extinction is forever

Conclusions From Research

  This research has been very useful to me. It has taught me about the Virginia fringed mountain snail[obviously], but it has also taught me about writing and researching reports, and has given me self confidence. It was also a fun animal to research and write about. I hope you learned a lot from this report. I tried to include as much information as possible. I hope you see the importance of protecting this and many other species which are in danger of extinction.

Bibliography

  Terwilliger, Karen. 1991. Endangered Species of Virginia. pp. 309-310.
Sabelli, Bruno. 1980. Simon and Schuster's Guide to Shells.pp 483, 349
Abbot, R. Tucker. 1986. Seashells of North America. pp. 7,8, 14, 174, 175

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Last updated on March 9, 1998