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Researcher's special tech stays on trail of Mitchell's snail

HAIL THE SNAIL: Dr Jonathan Parkyn has written a thesis on the rare Mitchell’s rainforest snail.
HAIL THE SNAIL: Dr Jonathan Parkyn has written a thesis on the rare Mitchell’s rainforest snail. John Waddell

THE secret life of Australia's rarest snail has been revealed, thanks to the work of Southern Cross University researcher Dr Jonathan Parkyn.

With a 5cm wide cone-shaped shell, the Mitchell's rainforest snail is not only rare - it is also one of the largest land snails.

It lives in debris on the rainforest floor.

Dr Parkyn used miniature radio transmitters - and spent four years crawling around in leaf litter - to discover what the snails eat and where they go during the day.

SNAIL TALES

  • The Mitchell's rainforest snail is listed as critically endangered
  • It has a large conical banded shell, up to 5cm wide
  • There are fewer than 500 mature individual snails left
  • The biggest threat to its survival is habitat destruction

He has now written a thesis on the Mitchell's rainforest snail, Studies on the ecology of the endangered camaenid land snail Thersites mitchellae (Cox, 1864).

His work has provided valuable new information on this species, which will help with conservation and management.

"With conventional searching, locating the snails can prove tricky," Dr Parkyn said.

"But by putting a transmitter on them we can track and locate previously tagged ones that normally would be out of sight.

"As a result we were able to demonstrate how active they were at night and how far they travelled as the humidity increased."

Dr Parkyn's research was conducted between the Richmond River at Ballina and the Tweed River near the Queensland border.

He said the results showed the snails were capable of long range movements - if the habitat and climate is suitable.

"This suggests that snails may be capable of colonising new habitat patches if appropriate connectivity is available between habitats," he said.

"This has important implications for future attempts to restore habitat for this critically endangered land snail."

Topics:  environment, offbeat, southern cross university



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