In the currents of the Lower Coosa River and Shelby County’s Yellow Leaf Creek, there is a small but sharp species making its way through the water. It’s a species all its own, completely unique from all other members of its genus. It has spike-like nodules within the spiral on its pyramid-like shell, with a yellowish-brown color on the outside giving way to a white inside. This is the rough hornsnail.
Found only in the Coosa River and some of its tributaries throughout Alabama’s Shelby, Etowah, St. Clair, Talladega and Elmore counties, the rough hornsnail (pleurocera foremani) lives in moderate currents, and has been collected at depths ranging from three to just over nine meters. It makes its home along the gravel, mud and bedrock along these currents, where it lays its eggs arranged in a spiral fashion on smooth surfaces and gets nutrients from surrounding debris. Its at times murky habitat allows it to somewhat tolerate siltation; however, it has primarily been found along clean gravel at shallow depths.
However, the life of the rough hornsnail is a short one, and its history places a certain degree of stress on its status today. With a lifespan of around four to five years, the rough hornsnail is in an increased state of need for a suitable habitat. It used to be found in the Cahaba River, but can now only be found along a certain stretch of the Coosa and its tributaries. Due to damming in the Coosa for hydroelectric power and increased pollution in the Cahaba, the rough hornsnail population is limitedly distributed across a restricted range of land, making it difficult for the species to continue. The species was deemed endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2010, and faces the threat of possible extinction.
While the rough hornsnail’s homeland may be increasingly shrinking, the Freshwater Land Trust team strives to preserve and protect the land and waterways that species like these inhabit. We set out to preserve Alabama’s biologically diverse present to create an equally diverse future, for man and snail alike.