Evolutionary history and systematics of Pacific Island snails, the world’s most endangered animals. (APSF 20061)

APSF 20061 | Amount: $40,805 | Project Leader: F Koehler | Project Period:

A project undertaken at the Australian Museum, and supervised by Frank Koehler

Pacific islands are home to a spectacularly rich fauna of native land snails of which many species are endemic to specific islands (that means they do not occur anywhere else in the world). The most impressive land snail fauna is found on one of the most isolated island archipelagos in the world, Hawaii, which harbours a whopping 750 species alone.

Norfolk Land Snails

Sadly, the native land snails of Pacific Islands are also the most threatened animals in the world. These species are generally vulnerable to the effects of habitat loss and habitat degradation as well as the impact of introduced species. It is estimated that between 50 and 95% of all Pacific Island land snail species are extinct or critically endangered. Yet, because little research has been conducted in recent years across the vast expenses of the Pacific Ocean, our understanding of the conservation status of most species is rather poor.

The aim of the present project, which is a collaboration of Australian and American land snail specialists, is to shed new light on the status of species in some key localities of the Hawaiian Islands, throughout the Polynesian and Melanesian archipelagos, and on Lord Howe and Norfolk Island, by conducting targeted surveys. In addition, we aim to achieve a better documentation of their evolutionary relationships to resolve long-standing research questions around the origin of Pacific land snail species and the pathways that shaped their current distributions.