Roll out the red carpet. Cahaba River Society is honoring rare snail

Cahaba River Society
Oblong Rocksnail, photo by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

January and February is award season.  The Golden Globes, Oscars and Grammys. On Thursday, February 1st, the Cahaba River Society (CRS) is going to hold their own special awards ceremony and roll out the red carpet for…. the Oblong rocksnail.

Last week, Bham Now asked Cahaba River Society’s longtime Field Director Randy Haddock to tell us why CRS will be honoring a snail that was re-discovered after 70 years and had been declared extinct.

Check out below Haddock’s wise words below about the long lost snail and the resilience of our rivers in Alabama.

Also, consider attending the first ever award ceremony that honors a snail at the Cahaba River Society’s annual meeting.  The Cahaba Riverkeeper will be accepting the “Against All Odds” award on behalf of the snail.

Along with the Oblong rocksnail, several conservation leaders and businesses will be recognized for their efforts to protect the Cahaba River watershed.

Special to Bham Now, here are Randy Haddock’s special words about the award -winning Oblong rocksnail.
Cahaba River Society’s Randy Haddock


What can we learn when a snail that has not been seen for 70 years is ‘re-discovered’?

One factor that contributed to the year 2000 decision to declare the Oblong rocksnail extinct was that it’s range had already been declining when it was last seen alive in 1935. If you had not seen one of your relatives for 70 years, what would you think?

Also, LOTS of other snail species from Alabama have been thought to have gone extinct; as many as 37 of Alabama’s snail species have been declared extinct.

Lazarus species

So, it was not unreasonable to think the Oblong rocksnail was gone. However, long-lost relatives do re-surface on rare occasions, and the Oblong rocksnail is not the first “Lazarus species” to be re-discovered. Around nine molluscan “Lazarus species” have been ‘re-discovered’ from Alabama in recent years, thanks to the efforts of Alabama Department of Conservation biologists and other biologists.

This also speaks to the resilience of some riverine species. Despite the various and sundry impacts that caused dramatic declines in the numbers of these snails and many other species of aquatic wildlife, a few hardy (or maybe lucky) individuals were able to ‘hang in there’ in some very special locations.

The Cahaba River adjacent to the Living River Presbyterian Camp and the Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge are just such places.

Cahaba River Society
Oblong rock snail from the Cahaba River in Alabama. Credit: Thomas Tarpley, ADCNR

Urban impacts (like pollutants and altered hydrology), excessive sediment and nutrient loading have apparently been attenuated enough through time and distance to allow these creatures to survive.

The Oblong rocksnail has managed to survive. For a person like me, who recognizes that these species tell us about the health of the river, to see them taking some tentative steps back from the brink of extinction is encouraging news for the overall health of the Cahaba River.

Pat Byington
Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.

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