New Brunswick

Bioblitz turns up invasive snail in Grand Lake Meadows

Scientists have once again discovered new species, including the Chinese mystery snail, living in the Grand Lake Meadows protected natural area, during a two-week bioblitz.

Lichen fungus, slug may be first discoveries in North America

Scientists have once again discovered new species living in Grand Lake Meadows, during a two-week bioblitz.

About 60 people from across the Maritimes, Canada, the United States and, for the first time, an international mollusk expert from France, scoured the protected natural area to document its various species of animals and plants.

"We do have a number of things that we're kind of excited about," said Don McAlpine, research chair of zoology at the New Brunswick Museum.

One is an invasive species called the Chinese mystery snail.

It was previously known to be in two very small lakes near Sackville, McAlpine said, but this is the first discovery in the St. John River system.

"So that will be one to watch," he said.

The large gastropod is about the size of golf ball, he said, and has been a problem in the northeastern U.S. where it competes with some species of fish and clogs intake pipes.

"It occupies a niche that's normally used by native species, so that's never a good thing," said McAlpine.

Another discovery is a fungus that grows on lichens, which is new to North America, he said. It was previously only known to Colombia.

A slug that was found may also be new to North America, said McAlpine, noting scientists are waiting for DNA barcoding to be done on it.

He said most of the discoveries in past years involved fungi or insects, some of which were as yet undescribed.

Last year, for example, they found a species of ground beetle not previously known to New Brunswick.

McAlpine said the work is important because the area has been set aside to maintain biodiversity. Scientists need to know what's there in order to develop management plans.

"Things seem healthy, but at same time the site's had lots of disturbance over the years," he said, noting there are only patches left of old growth forest.

The data is also needed to monitor changes on the larger New Brunswick landscape, said McAlpine.

He added that many of the discoveries won't be apparent for six months to a year, once the researchers have had a chance to work over the material collected.

Most of the material will end up in the museum's collection, he said.

The researchers have been staying at an old rented house in Gagetown, most in tents on the lawn.

They have a laboratory set up at the local Queens County Heritage Courthouse.

"It's very collegial. Many of us have known each other for quite some time. There are some people who have been involved in the bioblitz since the very first year in 2009 and we all look forward to getting together," McAlpine said.

Three visual artists and a poet have also been part of the bioblitz, and McAlpine said their work will be incorporated into some of the exhibits the museum hopes to produce.

An open house is set for Monday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Queen's County Heritage Courthouse in Gagetown.