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New snail species for Carnarvon

Published 13 Oct 2014 by Alison Wilson

A minor interruption to the Bush Blitz with 33ml of rain over the past two days but that hasn’t stopped our scientists from heading out on foot surveying for new species of plants and animals.

I have just come back from a bush walk up to Mt Lambert's vine thicket about 2km from the homestead here at Carnarvon accompanying the very captivating and knowledgeable Dr John Stanisic. Curator of Molluscs at the Queensland Museum for 26 years, John is now an honorary research fellow and a lot of his work these days includes consulting on the importance invertebrates play as environmental indicators, in local and regional ecosystem management.

Known to his colleagues as The Snail Whisperer, and after this morning’s walk, I can assure you this man does know his snails.

John is one of the many scientists stationed here on Carnarvon this week as part of expedition Bush Blitz.

Like all native fauna, the land snail plays an extremely vital role in the biodiversity of our ecosystems by contributing to the nutrification of our soils with their decaying bodies, shells and faeces. The dead shells act as an important form of calcium for other animals in the system particularly for those living in a calcium poor habitat. Snails play an important role in the decomposition process by breaking down the rotting vegetation.

There are over 3000 species of land snails in Australia, only 60 of these are introduced.

As part of this week’s Bush Blitz, John was expecting to find about 20 land snail species here on Carnarvon and in just a few days his tally has already reached 18, not to mention 6 new undescribed species. 

Great news according to John because this suggests we have a large part of this local biodiversity conserved right here on Carnarvon Station Reserve.

Our native land snails come in 3 shapes: 

  1. the traditional snail with an external shell,
  2. a semi slug with a partly reduced shell too small for the snail to retreat into, and
  3. the full slug - snails that have evolved with no shell. 

Land snails are found across a range of habitats wet and dry from saltbush plains through to rainforests.

According to John, the biggest threat to Australia’s snail population is fire, so it will be particularly important for Bush Heritage to continue our important work of mapping these vine thickets so land managers can ensure fire regimes are managed appropriately, this means ensuring these vine thickets are not exposed to really hot fires.

John’s latest work includes two books, Volumes 1 & 2 on Australian Land Snails, Volume 2 is due for release very soon.

More updates on the Bush Blitz tomorrow.  

Dr John Stanisic and Katie Wilson check out what snails they have found back in the lab set up by the Bush Blitz team. Dr John Stanisic and Katie Wilson check out what snails they have found back in the lab set up by the Bush Blitz team.
The Snail Whisperer Dr John Stanisic and helper Katie Wilson look for snails in Mt Lambert's vine thicket. The Snail Whisperer Dr John Stanisic and helper Katie Wilson look for snails in Mt Lambert's vine thicket.
Carnarvon Woodland Snail Pallidelix cf greenhilli Carnarvon Stn. Carnarvon Woodland Snail Pallidelix cf greenhilli Carnarvon Stn.
The Bush Blitz tent city on Carnarvon Station Reserve. The Bush Blitz tent city on Carnarvon Station Reserve.

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