The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced on 28 December 2017 the Beaverpond Marstonia (Marstonia castor), a freshwater snail from Georgia, is extinct. The announcement is in response to a 2010 petition from the Center for Biological Diversity seeking Endangered Species Act protection for the critically imperiled snail.
The snail was lost to extinction due to groundwater withdrawal for agriculture and urbanization, along with pollution from agricultural fields. The Service should have proposed protection for the Beaverpond Marstonia in 2011 but did not act on the petition until the Center sued the agency in 2016 to obtain a court-ordered deadline for the decision. The snail was first added to the candidate waiting list for federal protection in 1984.
“It’s heartbreaking to lose wildlife to extinction, especially when timely intervention could have saved the species,” said Tierra Curry, senior scientist at the Center. “The loss of the Beaverpond Marstonia is yet another wake-up call to the Fish and Wildlife Service that urgent action is needed to prevent the extinction of more Southeast species.”
The Beaverpond Marstonia – first discovered in 1977 – was a tiny, tan, freshwater snail from Cedar Creek, a tributary of the Flint River in Crisp County in central Georgia south of Macon. Its shell has four whorls and is one-tenth of an inch tall.
Southeastern species declared extinct in the past decade include two Florida butterflies, the Zestos Skipper and Rockland Grass Skipper; three freshwater mussels, the Green Blossom, Yellow Blossom and Turgid Blossom pearlymussels; South Florida Rainbow Snakes; Florida Fairy Shrimp; Tatum Cave Beetles from Kentucky; and now the Beaverpond Marstonia. In the past 100 years, more than 50 southeastern species have been lost to extinction.
In 2010 the Center petitioned for protection for 404 imperiled freshwater species from the Southeast. The Service should have issued decisions on their protection in 2011. Now seven years later, 15 have been protected, 4 have been proposed for protection and 26 have been denied protection, 3 because they were found to be extinct. The Center has withdrawn 45 petitions based on new information. The rest are still in limbo awaiting decisions.
“The Southeast region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service feels no sense of urgency about preventing the extinction of small but incredibly important species like snails and insects. They’re shirking their responsibility to prevent irreplaceable wildlife from being lost forever,” said Curry.
The waterways of the southeastern United States are a global hotspot of both biodiversity and extinction. The region boasts more kinds of freshwater snails, mussels, fishes and crawdads than anywhere else in the world, but they are threatened by dams, human population growth, pollution, invasive species and global climate change.