The Mighty Mollusks
We are in the midst of “the second largest extinction event on the planet, and most people don’t even know it,” said former TNACI Research Scientist Paul Johnson. The victims? Snails, mussels and other aquatic animals that inhabit streams and rivers. And the problem is occurring right under our noses.
The Southeast has the largest diversity of freshwater snails in the world. But that status is quickly changing. The effects are most visible in the Coosa River Basin, where 41 out of the 72 documented freshwater mollusk extinctions in North America have occurred.
Snails are one of the building blocks of the food pyramid in a water system. But in addition to serving as food for fish and other animals, snails also benefit the environment by eating algae and debris on the river bottom. Thus the loss of snails from rivers and streams can be disastrous for aquatic ecosystems.
To stem the tide of extinction in southeastern rivers and streams, TNACI surveyed and monitored mollusks within the region, and propagated mussels and snails in captivity for reintroduction into the wild.
TNACI scientists have successfully bred in captivity the Georgia rocksnail, the plicate rocksnail and the spiny riversnail - snails selected for propagation because habitat destruction has resulted in the loss of these species from over 85 percent of their historical range.
The biggest threats to mussels are water quality and water abundance—visit our Every Drop Counts
page to learn how you can help sustain their supply!
Learn more about the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute