Virginia Fringed Mountain Snail 
 
 
Scientific Name:
Polygyriscus virginianus
Other Names and/or Listed subspecies:
Virginia Coil
Group:
Snails
Status/Date Listed as Endangered:
EN-US FWS: July 3, 1978
Area(s) Where Listed As Endangered:
Virginia

The Virginia fringed mountain snail is one of the rarest snails in North America. It was once believed to be extinct until live specimens were found in 1971. It is only found in one area in Pulaski County, Virginia along the north bank of the New River. The shell is pale green in color and has four to five whorls that get thicker toward the rim, and it has eight to ten spiral, comb-like fringes inside the lower spiral grooves. It can grow up to 0.18 inches in diameter and 0.06 inches in height. The animal inside is white and thought to be blind because it has no pigmented eyestalks.

This snail seems to prefer a heavily shaded habitat, and where there is clay soil is in the area with pieces of limestone mixed in. Overgrown honeysuckle vines must be present to keep the clay soil moist at all times. Live snails have been found in this soil mixture as deep as 24 inches, and they may never come to the surface unless during extremely wet weather. It is not known what this snail eats, but generally soil invertebrates are herbivorous and feed on dead or decaying plant material such as leaves and soft bark. Little is known about the reproductive behavior of this snail. All snail species are “hermaphrodites,” possessing both male and female reproductive organs, but they still need to find another snail to mate with. When the mating pair meets, one snail pierces the skin of the other snail with a calcified "love dart." The exact purpose of this is not fully understood but it seems to stimulate the other snail into exchanging small packets of sperm. After mating is complete the snails will produce eggs internally, which are fertilized by the sperm that has been exchanged. Both adult male and female give birth, and they give birth to live young.

The estimated population of the Virginia fringed mountain snail is unavailable and only 30 snails have been found alive. The main threats to the species is habitat destruction due to human disturbance such as construction and pollution through chemicals. Conservation efforts include protection of its only habitat, and the US FWS has recommended additional research to aid recovery efforts.


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