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Rare sea snail found after 181 years in Isle of Man waters

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

A rare sea snail has been recorded in Isle of Man waters for the first time in 181 years. 

The grooved top shell snail (Jujubinus striatus) was inadvertently caught on camera by divers who were studying the carbon-reducing plant eel grass in the Langness Marine Nature Reserve at Fort Island Gully. 

It is thought to be the first time the tiny snail, which has a distinctive corkscrew shell, has been found alive in Manx waters since 1838, when it was last recorded by the Manx marine biologist, Edward Forbes. 

On studying the images taken by Isle of Man Seasearch, government scientists spotted the triangular shaped shells, around 8-10 mm high, hidden amongst the plant’s leaves and asked the divers to return to collect samples which experts confirmed as the grooved top shell snail. 

Geoffrey Boot MHK, Minister for Environment, Food and Agriculture (DEFA), said:

‘This is great news for the island’s biodiversity, and shows our marine nature reserves are successfully protecting important habitats and species.’ 

The species was found in an eel grass meadow which is especially good at removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, as well as cleaning the ocean by absorbing polluting nutrients and for supporting other species, including young fish, crabs, shrimp and sea snails. 

The new find confirms the most-northerly distribution of the living snail in the British Isles, as many historical records referred only to empty shells. 

The species is typically found in the Mediterranean and, until recently, only as far north as Anglesey and Dublin Bay. 

The earlier report from the Isle of Man suggests that it has been here before, if not continuously, but could have been overlooked. DEFA marine scientists said that records of species at the edge of their natural biological range are important for monitoring large-scale ecological effects, like climate change for example, as seas warm and species distributions expand or contract. 

The snail’s link with eel grass is well established, and the continuing work of DEFA, supported by volunteer marine conservation organisations, will help to ensure that the presence of these snails is monitored. 

The species will now be added to the National Biodiversity Network (NBN) Atlas Isle of Man, an online database containing of all the organisms recorded from the Island. 

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