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New aquatic snail discovered in Wyoming

Lusha Tronstad
University of Wyoming
Snail teeth of the Rocky Mountain Capshell. This snail eats with its feet.

A rare water snail was found in the Snowy Mountain Range. Previously, the snail was only found in Colorado, Montana and a few places in Canada. The Rocky Mountain Capshell lives in mountain lakes. Since these snails eat with their feet, it glides on rocks, picking up algae under the water.

Professor of Invertebrate Zoology with the University of Wyoming Lusha Tronstad said she’s excited to have found the snails, but since more research isn’t funded they can’t do more investigation into how climate change is affecting their habitat.

“Higher elevations have more pronounced rises in temperatures, water temperatures, and that can have a lot of effects on lakes and effects we don't even understand yet,” she said.

Tronstad said mountain lakes, like where the Rocky Mountain Capshell lives, are heavily affected by climate change and rising temperatures, but without more research it's hard to say how it affects the Rocky Mountain Capshell.

There are around 40 aquatic snail species in Wyoming, and during the snail survey the researchers found 18 species in the three areas they searched. The research was supported by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

Taylar Dawn Stagner is a central Wyoming rural and tribal reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. She has degrees in American Studies, a discipline that interrogates the history and culture of America. She was a Native American Journalist Association Fellow in 2019, and won an Edward R. Murrow Award for her Modern West podcast episode about drag queens in rural spaces in 2021. Stagner is Arapaho and Shoshone.
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