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The Iowa Pleistocene Snail

Pleistocene snails enjoy the comfort of Algific Talus Slopes in northeastern Iowa.

One of the most interesting species found in the driftless area’s Algific Talus Slopes is the federally endangered Iowa Pleistocene snail. Biologists had known this species for many years from ancient fossil deposits found across the Midwest. It was thought to have been extinct for 10,000 years.

However, in 1940 a scientist examining a collection of snails in the U.S. National Museum discovered that a live specimen of the Iowa pleistocene snail had been collected years earlier by an Iowa naturalist named Bohumil Shimek.

Unfortunately, the specimens collected by Shimek did not identify the locations in which he found them. In 1955, records were found that indicated Shimek was in Northeastern Iowa at the time he collected the live specimen. The U.S. Office of Endangered Species commissioned many biologists to find the sites, but they all failed.

Then, in 1980, State Ecologist Dean Roosa asked Terry Frest, a geology graduate from the University of Iowa, to investigate the snail. Not only did Frest find several sites where the species was alive and well, he also found other species new to science!

All of these unique snails are restricted in very small numbers to the Algific Talus Slopes.The Iowa Pleistocene snail is not the only endangered species on the slopes. These areas can be protected through sound management and education of area land owners.

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