Lonely George the Tree Snail Dies in 2019 – Researchers Could Not Find Him a Wife
Rest in Peace, George the snail.
(I wrote of another single snail previously here: (Link): Love Is Patient: Rare Snail Finally Meets Mate Willing to Accept His Differences )
Here’s the new, sad snail story.
by C. Wilcox
One famous snail’s death highlights the plight faced by diverse Hawaiian snails, of which there were once hundreds of species.
THE WORLD’S LONELIEST snail is no more.
George, a Hawaiian tree snail—and the last known member of the speciesAchatinella apexfulva—died on New Year’s Day. He was 14, which is quite old for a snail of his kind.
George was born in a captive breeding facility at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa in the early 2000s, and soon after, the rest of his kin died. That’s when he got his name—after Lonesome George, the Pinta Island tortoise who was also the last of his kind.
For over a decade, researchers searched in vain for another member of the species for George to mate with, to no avail. (Though these snails are hermaphrodites, two adults must mate to produce offspring, and researchers refer to George as a “he.”)
“I’m sad, but really, I’m more angry because this was such a special species, and so few people knew about it,” says Rebecca Rundell, an evolutionary biologist with State University of New York who used to help care for George and his kin.
Throughout his life, George was a public face for the struggles facing Hawaiian land snails. His death highlights both the vast diversity of indigenous snails—and their desperate plight.
…The snails that remain in Hawaii are in serious trouble, though. Most are only found on a single ridge or valley, and in recent years, declines have accelerated as introduced predators have started invading their last refuges.
…The snails’ decline can be blamed on invasive species, which are eating them to extinction.
…It became a tradition amongst the snail researchers to stop at the spot where the last A. apexfulva were found and pull out binoculars to scan the trees. “We kept hoping we’d find more,” says Hadfield.
But they never saw another.
Thus, though George became sexually mature in 2012, he never had a mate. The snail lived over a decade in a terrarium of his own, and then, on the first day of 2019, he died.
…The love shack
George spent the last two years inside a 12-foot by 44-foot modular trailer in Oahu which some have taken to calling “the love shack.”
…“As we are all mourning George, I hold tighter the thought that hope still does exist for these native snails,” says Norine Yeung, the malcology collection manager at the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum. “Please don’t forget them.”