The first Partula snail was first discovered in 1769 by Joseph Banks and others during the first voyage of the Endeavour.
Partula snails, also known as Polynesian tree snails, are small spiral-shelled land snails and like other snails, they can retract their bodies inside their shells. They move around the trees and plants by using waves of muscular activity in their single foot. The foot glides over the surface of leaves on a layer of slime that is produced by a gland at the front end of the foot.
Partula photo copyright: Dave Clarke
These snails are herbviores and eat decomposing plant material. They spend their time grazing decomposing plant material in the forests of the small French Polynesian island of Raiatea, found to the south-west of Tahiti. They are most active at night and after rain.
Polynesian tree snails are endemic to many of the volcanic islands of the South Pacific. They have an enormous geographical range, from Belau, east of the Philippines, to the Marquesas Islands.
On the islands of French Polynesia, dozens of different species of tree snail used to live alongside one another. Some lived only in single valleys, others lived in a number of valleys on a single island.
The story of Polynesian tree snails, such as the Partula, is a sad one. African land snails were introduced to the islands as a source of food for the local people, but they soon escaped and started eating crops. In 1974 , in an effort to control the land snails, a smaller predatory species of snail was introduced; Euglandina rosea. This species started to feed on the native Polynesian tree snails. Before long, many species of Polynesian tree snails became extinct. Out of an original 125 species, 50 species are now Extinct in the Wild, and 24 survive in captivity.
Four species of Polynesian tree snail are being kept in Bugworld here at Bristol Zoo Gardens, all four of which are Extinct in the Wild.
Watch our Partula Snail Conservation Story to find out more about international efforts to save Polynesian tree snails
Partula dentifera IUCN Red List species link
Partula hebe IUCN Red List species link
Partula tohiveana IUCN Red List species link
Partula tristis IUCN Red List species link
The shells of Partula snails were used as decorative items and were made into jewellery.
You can find our species of Partula snails in their very own conservation breeding room at Bug World, next to the Aquarium and above The Hide Café Restaurant
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