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News for Snail Lovers
And we’re not talking about dinner. We’re talking about two elusive mollusks found only in Arizona: the San Xavier talussnail and the Wet Canyon talussnail.

Clay Nelson, an Arizona Game and Fish Department biologist, says these two snails are unique: the San Xavier talussnail is found in only a 50-by-150-yard area outside Tucson, and the Wet Canyon talussnail, which is found in the Pinaleno Mountains, was not identified until 1980.

The snails are active only during monsoon season, which may amount to just a matter of days each summer when they venture out to eat and reproduce. The rest of the year these nickel-sized creatures crawl deep into cracks in the rocks and seal their shells up until the next monsoon season.

“ That makes studying them quite a challenge,” says Nelson. “We wait until the rains start near Tucson and then we jump in the truck and head down that way, hoping to find even a few to observe.”

Why are snails important? Just like frogs, snails are indicator species for ecosystem health. Biologists say each species in an ecosystem is like a rivet on an aircraft in flight.

“ The question,” says biologist Jeff Sorensen, “ is how many rivets can you lose before that aircraft—or in our case, the ecosystem—crashes? What if that one species is a critical link for maintaining others?”

If you’d like to learn more about Arizona’s many big—and small—creatures, visit the Arizona Game and Fish Department Web site at or call (602) 789-3500.


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