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Apple Snails from Mizoram, newest of freshwater snails

 Staff Reporter

Aizawl, July 2: In July 2017: Aravind N.A. and his team from the Ashoka   Trust   for Research in Ecology and the Environment  (ATREE), Bangalore, set out to study the land    snails    in  the   Blue   Mountain   National   Park   of     Mizoram.     On their way back, they explored a small waterfall near the National Highway for freshwater snails and luckily stumbled upon a  species new to science. Named Pila mizoramensis, it   is the   sixth member   of   the   Pila   genus from   India   and   the   second species to inhabit hill streams. Pila   is   commonly known as Apple Snails.

 

“It   is   currently   found in only two localities in Mizoram. The ‘type locality’ or the place from where the first individual was collected is  already facing threats due to garbage dumping   and   other   human disturbances  such  as washing of vehicles near the falls,” explains   Dr Aravind N.A., corresponding author of the paper recently published in Molluscan Research. He is an Associate Professor at Suri Sehgal Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, ATREE.

 

The    team    carried   out  morphological,   anatomical  and   phylogenetic   studies   to describe   the   species.   “We first look  at   the   shell   characteristics – whether left or  right coiled. Pila mizoramensis was right  coiled. DNA studies showed that it was a close relative of  the Southeast Asian species, Pila virescens,” adds first author Maiterya Sil, Research Associate   with ATREE. The study was done  in  collaboration with  Indian Institute   of Science, Bangalore, and  Indian Institute  of Scientific Education and   Research, Thiruvananthapuram.

 

The   snail   was   found among algae and semi- aquatic   plants   in   the   spray or   splash    zones     of  the waterfalls.

 

The  snail,   given   the common   name   Mizoram Apple    Snail,   has   a  shell height and diameter of about 2.5  cm. Its  habitat  has perennial   waterfalls and   the snail    was    found    among algae and semi-aquatic plants in the spray or splash zones of   the waterfalls. The locality it was found in has a temperature   not   exceeding in 25  degrees  Celsius  and receives an annual rainfall of over 2500 mm.

 

There  are   only    two species   of   Pila   from   India which  are   restricted  to streams   and   the   other   one Pila   saxea   is   found   in northern   Western   Ghats.

 

Other members  of   this group  are   restricted to stagnant water bodies such as   paddy fields,   ponds, marshes   and   lakes.

 

When asked  if  these snails are edible, Dr. Aravind NA  explained that  most species   in   this   genus   are edible.   “But   the   new   snails are extremely   small in   size and    not   found in  large numbers like those on agricultural fields. It will a tough job collecting                                                      enough to make a meal,” he chuckles.

 

The   team   has   planned  to   carry   out   further   studies to understand the extend of this snail’s distribution in the Northeast Indian region, reproductive biology, ecology   and   response to habitat   disturbances.    

 

(Source: Newslink Vol-XXIII No. 139 Aizawl July 3, Saturday 2021)