June 28, 2010
According to the study there are 42 known species of freshwater molluscs. Although the percentage of endemic freshwater molluscs (occurring only in Cuba) is not nearly as high as its land snails, it is still considerable. Ten species are only found in Cuba, or nearly a quarter. Yet the study found that a number of these molluscs are in need of protection.
"With the exception of some highly charismatic species of land snails, such as those of the genus Polymita and Liguus, no other species of molluscs are taken into consideration when selecting a protected area or delimiting its borders," the authors write.
Currently, 24 of Cuba's freshwater molluscs are found in the nation's over 200 protected areas, leaving 18 unprotected. Three of these are only found in Cuba: Nanivitrea alcaldei, Nanivitrea helicoides, and Pachychilus nigratus. In addition, there are already concerns that the Nanivitrea species may have gone extinct.
"Biodiversity conservation and managing are key activities for the health and existence of many ecosystems. However, mammals, birds or reptiles receive most of the attention, leaving molluscs and other taxa in a category that we might call neglected," the authors write.
Molluscs are threatened by loss of habitat, tourism construction, and alien species. A rising population in Cuba means that many water areas, once habitat for molluscs, have been turned to provide water to a thirsty growing population. In addition, invasive species like thiarids snails are linked to some population declines of endemic molluscs by out-competing native species for food.
Saving local molluscs species, according to the authors, could lead to important benefits for Cuban society.
"The preservation of the Cuban endemic freshwater molluscs will not only help to sustain ecosystem functioning, but could also have an important impact on public health. Many of the introduced species of molluscs are usually considered as intermediary hosts of parasites responsible for some tropical diseases. These opportunistic species can establish themselves in disturbed ecosystems, reaching high densities in a short period of time. However, some of the endemic species may serve as biological control agents, which could outcompete the exotic molluscs and prevent their successful establishment if the natural habitat remains unaltered."
CITATION: Vázquez, A. A. and Perera, S. 2010. Endemic Freshwater molluscs of Cuba and their conservation status. Tropical Conservation Science Vol. 3 (2):190-199.
The Caribbean's wonderfully weird (and threatened) mammals, an interview with Jose Nunez-Mino
(01/18/2010) Not many people know the solenodon and the hutia, yet for the fortunate few that have encountered them, these strange little-studied mammals—just barely holding on in the Caribbean island of Hispaniola—deserve to be stars of the animal kingdom. "I could not quite believe it the first time I held a solenodon; I was in utter awe of this mesmerizing mammal. […] They have a long flexible snout which is all down to the fact that it is joined to the skull by a unique ball-and-socket joint. This makes it look as if the snout is almost independent to the rest of the animal. You can’t help but feel fascinated by the snout and inevitably it does make you smile," Dr. Jose Nunez-Mino, the Project Manager for a new initiative to study and conserve the island's last mammals, told mongabay.com in an interview.
After disease engulfs island, rare mountain chicken frogs airlifted to safety
(04/23/2009) In a rescue operation that sounds straight out of an action film, 50 mountain chicken frogs were airlifted from the Caribbean island Montserrat after the discovery of Chytridomycosis, a fungal disease that has wiped out amphibian populations worldwide. Already, hundreds of the critically-endangered mountain chicken frogs succumbed to the disease, which is thought to have made its way to the island in late 2008 or early 2009.
Europeans may have caused extinction of large mammals in Caribbean
(01/25/2007) New evidence suggests that the arrival of Europeans in the New World corresponds with the extinction of mammal species on the Caribbean islands.