29 October 2012
Kent Wildlife Trust has joined forces with Canterbury Christ Church University in an attempt to breed, in captivity, the rare shining ram's-horn snail (Segmentina nitida).
Populations of this small yet striking aquatic snail, typically found in clean and well-vegetated ditch habitats, have suffered a dramatic decline in the last 60-70 years. The Lower Stour marshes in Kent are a stronghold for the shining ram’s-horn, which is known from only a handful of other sites across the country.
As part of the BBC Wildlife Fund and Environment Agency-funded project to safeguard this species in Kent, the Trust has been working closely with Canterbury Christ Church University to better understand the breeding requirements of the snail.
Chloe Sadler, the Trust’s Water for Wildlife Project Officer, said: “The initial focus of this project was to get an up-to-date picture of the snail’s distribution in Kent, and wider surveys of the Lower Stour marshes have confirmed that even here this creature is restricted. I’ve found a number of ditches that appeared to be ideal for the snail, but did not currently support it, suggesting it’s a poor ditch-to-ditch coloniser so we’re now looking at trialling ways in which we can aid its dispersal.
“As well as working with landowners and other like-minded organisations to directly translocate some snails into suitable adjacent habitat, we’re very excited to be working with Canterbury Christ Church University on the captive breeding aspect of this project.
"We’ve initially managed to recreate favourable conditions for the snails to lay some egg masses and have recently had some encouraging developments with some juvenile snails being born. Although it’s very early days, we’re hopeful that at some point in the future we’ll be in a position to reintroduce a population of captive-bred snails onto a suitable site with assured, long-term protection. It is hoped that these combined efforts will ensure that this exquisite little snail is a feature of the Lower Stour marshes for many years to come.”
“It’s great to be carrying out research that can be immediately applied to help an endangered animal in Kent,” said Dr Phil Buckley, Senior Lecturer in Ecology at Canterbury Christ Church University. “The work of Kent Wildlife Trust has great potential to preserve, and perhaps reverse the decline of this animal, which has made this an exciting project to be a part of.”
The project to save the shining ram’s-horn snail will run until the end of December 2012.
Canterbury Christ Church University
Canterbury Christ Church University is a modern university with a particular strength in higher education for the public services.
With nearly 20,000 students, and five campuses across Kent and Medway, its courses span a wide range of academic and professional subject areas.
*2010/11 Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey