Oahu Tree Snails
On the island of Oahu, there lives a group of snails found nowhere else in the world. They belong to the endemic Hawaiian family Achatinellidae. These small snails are isolated on Oahu's mountain ridges and have evolved through allopatric speciation into a multitude of different species. Yet, their fate is in our hands. All the remaining species are threatened with extinction in our lifetime.
Tree Snail Facts
While Oahu used to have 41 different snails, there remain now only about 6-7 snails and all but two are endangered. These snails remain in captivity at the University of Hawaii, where breeding efforts are underway to increase populations to be re-introduced in the wild.
This is a list of some Achatinellid snails
Tree snails give birth to live young after they are reproductively mature. It may take up to seven years for a snail to become reproductively mature. Very few snails have such slow reproductive rates. The baby keiki (small snails), are released from the mother shell and all. The babies are only about 4.5 mm in diameter. An adult snail can give birth to one keiki from once four times a year.
No one knows for sure exactly how long an adult tree snail lives. However, there are snails at the University of Hawaii Tree Snail Lab that have been alive for over 10 years. Researchers predict that this is probably the maximum lifespan for wild populations.
Tree snails have an unusual diet. They spend almost their entire lives on one tree (usually an ohia or kopiko tree), eating a type of fungus that grows on the leaves. Captive snails are bred in containers with native ohia leaves, and a type of cultivated fungal mat.
SEE our additional Oahu Tree Snail Video: (similar video as above but with an interview of the snail lab researcher).
What are the threats?
Threats include predation by the Rosey Wolf Snail (see right), rats, and habitat loss.
The best way for you to help the native snails is to tell other people about them. Refer them to this site so that they can learn more themselves. Start snail educational programs at your local school to educate the children. If you happen to be lucky enough to find a snail on a trail don't touch it. Instead, take a picture and put it on your wall. Finally, write your politicians and let them know how important you think the snails are. Its only through continued funding that UH that researchers can sustain these magnificent native creatures.
Can't find what you're looking for? Search The Wild Classroom: