New Discoveries of Species of Snails in Belize

Author  Breaking Belize News

The fruit of a ten year study in Belize, malacologists Dan and Judy Dourson, along with Ron Caldwell, have discovered 17 species of land snails in Belize. These newly-identified species were named in honor of Belizeans who have contributed significantly to conservation in Belize, or, who have deep ties to the country. resizeimage 1These snails were found in leaf litter, ephiphytes, deep caves, sink holes and the most remote sections of the largely unexplored Maya Mountains.

It all began when Dan and his wife Judy visited the country to assist the Belize Foundation for Research and Environmental Education (BFREE) located adjacent to the Bladen Nature Reserve.

The study has revealed that the life cycle, habits and indicators of snails may be pivotal in forecasting possible changes to the environment. They occupy a unique position in the animal food chain, and are prey to bats, snakes and even other snails. One such carnivorous snail, called The Mayan Marauder, was caught on film.

Since land snails are considered one of the most numerous and "speciose" groups, they, therefore, remain largely unstudied, and this is in spite of their importance in ecosystems. They perform a crucial role in micronutrient cycling. According to the report on these snails, “Declining land snail populations can have ripple effects to surrounding ecosystems,” the report said. The report likens land snails to freshwater mussels that are like litmus indicators of the quality of its habitat. Similarly, land snails may indicate future deterioration of its natural habitat.

“Native land snails could therefore be used to forecast impending problems created by anthropogenic pollutants reported to be accumulating in jungles of Belize,” the researchers said, pointing out that the Maya Mountains is one of the most important land snail regions in Central America. It may exceed other areas of comparable size in terms of numbers of species.