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Snail mountain: the amazing snails of Mount Kaputar

By: Michael Shea, Category: Science, Date: 27 Nov 2014

An extinct volcano in NSW is home to an endangered community of land snails, including a bright scarlet slug.

Kaputar Pink Slug

Kaputar Pink Slug
Photographer: Michael Murphy © Michael Murphy

Mount Kaputar, an extinct volcano in northwestern NSW, is home to a land snail community that is vastly different to that of surrounding land. Nine of these land snails, including a bright scarlet slug, occur only on the summit area of Mount Kaputar. This unique and vulnerable land snail community has just been recognized as an endangered community- a first for any land snail community in NSW.

Mount Kaputar lies 270 km inland from the Australian east coast in northern inland New South Wales. It is a western outpost of the Great Dividing Range, surrounded by the much drier habitat of the western slopes and plains, much of which is modified by agriculture.

Mount Kaputar is a land snail hotspot, with 24 native land snail species in seven families known. Nine of these species occur nowhere else on earth, including the Kaputar Pink Slug (Triboniophorus aff. graeffei or Triboniophorus sp. nov. “Kaputar"), the most well-known and iconic species in this snail community. Bright pink in colour with white sole and optic tentacles, this species has long attracted attention in the area because of its eye catching colour and large size. This charismatic slug was recently listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

Mount Kaputar’s land snail community is under threat, primarily from climate change. High-elevation ecosystems are considered particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and Mount Kaputar is already right on the edge of what is considered a subalpine ecosystem. It’s likely that the ranges of the endemic snail and slug species will contract or possibly even disappear altogether. Fire, feral pigs and land clearing are also of concern.

The unique land snail community of Mount Kaputar has recently been listed an endangered land snail community under NSW threatened species legislation; the first in Australia. This listing will hopefully bring attention to land snails and threats that they face.

Michael Shea
Research Associate

More information:
Murphy, M. J. & Shea, M. (2014). Survey of the land snail fauna (Gastropoda: Pulmonata) of Mount Kaputar National Park in northern inland New South Wales, Australia, including a description of the listing of Australia's first legally recognised endangered land snail community. Molluscan Research: Early Online.

Tags climate change, endemism, refugia, species richness, snails, slugs, biodiversity conservation,