Chupadera springsnail Pyrgulopsis chupaderae
ESA status: endangered


Chupadera springsnail pc Robert HershlerThe Chupadera springsnail is endemic to Willow Spring and an unnamed spring on the privately owned Willow Spring Ranch at the south end of the Chupadera Mountains in Socorro County, New Mexico. The two hillside groundwater discharges are located a third of a mile apart. The springsnail may be extirpated from one of these sites, but the population’s status is unknown. Monitoring has not occurred since 1999 when the new property owner began denying access to the ranch. The Chupadera springsnail is a highly imperiled species and there are numerous threats to its habitat. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated the snail as a candidate for protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1984, and finally listed it as “endangered” in 2011, after a twenty-eight year wait.

The Chupadera springsnail is a small to medium-sized hydrobiid snail, which are distinguished by the presence of eyes on long antennae and their conical shells. The Chupadera springsnail shell runs from tan to brown, making it darker in color than any other snail in its genus. Little is known about the Chupadera springsnail, although its biology and habitat requirements appear to be similar to other freshwater snails. It is found on firm surfaces, such as rocks, dead wood, and plants at the spring source. It is probably an herbivore or detritivore that feeds on algae, bacteria and decaying organic material, or that passively ingests small invertebrates while feeding. The snail almost certainly depends on a constant flow of clean, cold water to persist.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has identified a number of threats to the Chupadera springsnail, including intensive livestock grazing that degrades riparian habitat; groundwater pumping; spring impoundment and dewatering, water contamination; restricted range and mobility; fragmented habitat; and drought. A fire at the spring in 2002 may have damaged the species’ habitat. The springsnail is listed as an endangered species under the New Mexico Wildlife Conservation Act. 

 photo credit: Robert Hershler, Smithsonian Institution