What would make a good freshwater mascot? A charismatic frog? The dazzling jewel that is the kingfisher? Dragonflies that mesmerise as they zip across the surface of the water?
Well spare a thought for the glutinous snail.
They’re not cute and cuddly, but decreasing water quality has meant that numbers of this delicately beautiful mollusc has almost disappeared from the United Kingdom. In the maps below you can see locations you could find the glutinous snail about 100 years ago (left) and where it was found in a 2010 survey (right).
Lessons from the Lion King
The glutinous snail has become so endangered because it needs the cleanest water but as clean water is so rare now, the modern landscape is really a very hostile place for the poor old glutinous snail.
And, just as Mufasa taught us in the Lion King, biodiversity is the Circle of Life - take one link out of that circular chain and it can have repercussions all the way up the food chain. Scientists believe that these snails play an important role in freshwater ecosystems, keeping them clean by eating algae and serving as food for fish and other animals.
We know that as water quality declines, more than 50% of freshwater fish species are at risk of extinction and that has a knock-on effect for animals that eat the fish – the birds, the mammals and, of course, the bigger fish.
So let’s hear it for the glutinous snail stubbornly hanging on to the Welsh waterbody
The adult shell is just 13 to 16 mm in height, and 11 mm to 15 mm in width
The species can only survive in pollution-free, clear, calm fresh water.
It is in the list of endangered species in the British Isles, and is fully protected in the United Kingdom under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981
Over to you
Keep an out for snails and if you see one looking like the image above, take a picture and let us know.
See how the snail is thriving in a lake in north Wales
Read about one man’s efforts to save the glutinous snail
Coming next: H is for Heroes!
A is for Alien Invasions; B is for the Biggest!; C is for Crickets in your lunchbox; D is for Data. Or is it datum?; E is for Eighty Litres of Water in an Orange; F is for Ferruginous Pochard; G is for Going, Going, Gone?; H is for Heroes; I is for Industrial Revolution; J is for Jigsaw Puzzles; K is for (Everything including the) Kitchen Sink; L is for Life itself; M is for Microbeads; N is for Namedropping