Once used as decorative items in Polynesian ceremonial wear and jewelry, these small snails (averaging about one-half to three-quarters of an inch in length) gained the attention of science when Dr. Henry Crampton (along with Yoshio Kondo) spent 50 years studying and cataloging partulids, detailing their remarkable array of morphological elements, ecological niches and behavioral aspects that illustrate adaptive radiation.
What happened to the partulids of the island of Tahiti is a demonstration of the possible deleterious effects of attempted biological control. After an infestation of the introduced giant African land snails (Achatina spp.), the carnivorous Florida rosy wolfsnail (Euglandina rosea) was introduced into Tahiti in an attempt to combat the African species.
The wolfsnail chose instead to hunt and eat members of the nearly 76 species of Partula that were endemic to Tahiti, devouring all but about 5 species in a decade. Several scientists recognized what was going on, and were able to save several species prior to their becoming extinct.
Today, the Zoological Society of London runs the Partula Programme Consortium which maintains a captive breeding program in the United Kingdom, France and the United States.
The 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species contains 15 critically endangered, 11 extinct in the wild and 48 extinct Partula species. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species version 2009.2 contains 13 critically endangered, 11 extinct in the wild and 51 extinct Partula species.
Species within the genus Partula include:
This article incorporates public domain text from the reference.
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