Achatinella apexfulva is a reportedly extinct species of colorful, tropical, arboreal pulmonate land snail in the family Achatinellidae, once present on Oahu, Hawaii. A. apexfulva is the type species of the genus Achatinella. The specific name, apexfulva, meaning "yellow-tipped", refers to the yellow tip of the snail's shell.
|Drawing of a shell of Achatinella apexfulva.|
The family Achatinellidae, to which Achatinella apexfulva belongs, represents a diverse adaptive radiation. All species of tree-snail in Hawaii are believed to have come from a single ancestral snail. How that ancestral snail made the 3,800 kilometres (2,400 mi) trip across the ocean is unknown. A longstanding theory is that a bird carried a notably smaller ancestor across the ocean and dropped it on the islands, as bird mediated dispersal has been documented in other snail species. Alternative theories include that it floating across the ocean on a mat of debris, or that it island hopped across the Pacific in a combination of the theories. Within the Achatinellidae family, A. apexfulva belongs to the Oahu clade, which evolved on Oahu island and includes most other members of the genus Achatinella.
This species was endemic to forests of the island of Oahu in the Hawaiian archipelago, United States, but is now extinct. It was listed as federally endangered since 1981. A major cause of its population decline in the wild was predation by the rosy wolfsnail. The rosy wolfsnail, a central-American native, was introduced to Hawaii in the 1950s to control agricultural pests. However, as a carnivore of other snails it does not discriminate in its choice of food, and has been the cause of at least 8 other snail extinctions in Hawaii.
Other causes of the snail's decline included loss of habitat due to deforestation, introduction of rats, and the introduction of Jackson's chameleon. The problems that A. apexfulva faced are not unique: estimated extinction rates in the Achatinellidae family range between 75% and 90%. The International Union for Conservation of Nature's last study on A. apexfulva was conducted in 1996 and listed the species as Critically Endangered.
In 1997, in response to rapidly dwindling populations, all known remaining specimens of A. apexfulva were collected and bred in captivity. Most offspring died of unknown causes, but one successful offspring was born. This individual was named George, after Lonesome George, a Pinta Island tortoise who was also the last of their kind. By April 2011, George was the only remaining member of the species. In January 2019, George died at age 14 – leaving the species reportedly extinct.
While A. apexfulva lived on the leaves of trees, it was not herbivorous. Its diet consisted of algae and mold that it ate off leaves.
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- Pilsbry, Henry A. (1912–1914). "Historical Notes on the Literature". Manual of Conchology. XXII. Retrieved 29 February 2016.
The first Achatinellid shells brought to Europe, so far as we know, were obtained by Captain George Dixon, who visited the Hawaiian Islands in 1786 and 1787. They were strung on a lei or necklace, which seems to have been made entirely of Achatinella apexfulva and A. decora. It appears that four specific names were based upon these specimens.
- Holland, Brenden S; Hadfield, Michael G (August 2004). "Origin and diversification of the endemic Hawaiian tree snails (Achatinellidae: Achatinellinae) based on molecular evidence". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 32 (2): 588–600. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2004.01.003.
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- Bowler, Jacina (January 9, 2019). "Lonely George – A Hawaiian Tree Snail – Has Died, Taking His Species With Him". Science Alert. Retrieved January 30, 2019.
- "Achatinella apexfulva". The Recently Extinct Plants and Animals Database. Retrieved 28 October 2013.
- Thom van Dooren (2013) "The last snail: conservation and extinction in Hawai’i" February 28, 2013. Retrieved 8 January, 2016.
- January 04, Star-Advertiser staff Posted; January 4, 2019; January 4, 2019 Updated; 2019 10:29am (2019-01-04). "Last known Hawaiian land snail of its kind dies". Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Retrieved 2019-01-08.
- "World's loneliest snail dies, and a species goes extinct". 2019-01-08. Retrieved 2019-01-08.
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