George Is Dead. Who Was George?

February 7, 2019

A shy Hawaiian snail made news recently for being the last of its species. George, named after Lonesome George (the last surviving Galapagos tortoise), was an Achatinella Apexfulva, a land snail found in the Hawaiian Islands.

By Reeve, 1850 – Naturalis, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45749266

As a twelve-year old, George lived the usual life span of a regular snail, but he was special for another reason. When the number of this species of snail started to drastically decrease, George was one of ten snails brought into the University of Hawaii for scientists to study and help increase the snail population.

Interestingly, the Hawaiian Islands are sometimes referred to as the extinction capital of the world. In the last thirty years, more than ten species of birds have gone extinct on these islands. The biggest reason? An increase in migration into the Hawaiian Islands. When people and animals migrate from other parts of the world to the sensitive ecological islands in Hawaii, native populations that are not able to defend themselves soon start to deplete in numbers. For example, the introduction of rosy wolfsnails, a predatory snail that was intended to control pests, resulted in the new snails attacking and devouring the native snails.

Scientists in the state’s Snail Extinction Prevention Program are working to increase the snail population by identifying and preserving snails that are thought to be in danger of extinction.

What do you think scientists can do to help bring back the snail numbers in Hawaii?