North Carolina spans four ecoregions (at US EPA Level III): Blue Ridge, Piedmont, the Southeastern Plains and the Middle Atlantic Coastal Plain. These areas drain toward the Atlantic through six major river systems: the Dan/Roanoke, the Tar, the Neuse, the Cape Fear, the Yadkin/Pee Dee, and the Catawba, as well as several smaller systems. The Blue Ridge ecoregion also extends across the eastern continental divide to include one tributary of the Ohio River and several tributaries of the Tennessee River not covered here (but see below).
Charlotte Dawley (1965) published a simple checklist of the freshwater gastropods of North Carolina based on collections then housed at the Academy of Natural Sciences and the University of Michigan, together with her personal observations and those of Walter (1956). From NC Atlantic drainages she documented the 22 species listed (together with 8 synonyms) shown in the fourth column of Table 1. From a modern systematic standpoint, however, the freshwater gastropods of North Carolina were essentially unsurveyed prior to the present report.
Nevertheless, the state has seen considerable primary research
conducted on its freshwater gastropod populations. North Carolina
populations of the pleurocerid genus Pleurocera (formerly Goniobasis)
have served as important models in evolutionary biology (Dillon 1984,
1988, Dillon & Reed 2002, Dillon & Frankis 2004, Stiven
& Kreiser 1994), as well as occasional studies of a more
ecological nature (Foin & Stiven 1970, Dillon & Davis
1991). North Carolina populations of Campeloma have
figured in research on the origin of parthenogenesis (Johnson 1992). A
great many important studies on the relationships between pulmonate
snails and their trematode parasites have been conducted in
Charlie’s Pond, north of Winston-Salem (e.g., Snyder
& Esch 1993, Sapp & Esch 1994, Esch et al. 1997), and
some parasitological interest has been directed toward NC populations
of Pleurocera (or Goniobasis) as well (Barger
& Esch 2000, Lang 1968). A unique species of caddisfly has
recently been described from the Little River of Montgomery County,
with a larval stage predatory on Somatogyrus
virginicus (Morse & Lenat 2005). The ecological
experiments of McCollum et al. (1998), although conducted in aquaria,
were designed to mimic natural communities of fish, snails, and
periphyton typical of the Raleigh-Durham area.
The present survey focuses on the gastropod fauna of the Atlantic drainages only. The gastropod fauna of the Tennessee River tributaries draining the 15 westernmost counties of North Carolina is covered by the FWGTN survey elsewhere on this site. Our long term plans include an extension of coverage to include upper New River tributaries in the extreme northwestern corner of the state, as resources permit.
The database here analyzed includes 4,418 records from three primary sources. The largest fraction (approximately 1,800 records) are from field observations collected by contractors and staff of the NC Wildlife Resources Commission 1977–2002 and tabulated by BTW. Approximately 700 records are from the catalogued collections of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh, 1958–2004. An additional sample of approximately 1,600 records are from macrobenthic collections made by the NC Division of Water Quality 1985–2005, housed at the NCSM but not catalogued as of 2005. The remainder of the records were collected by RTD from 2000–2015, partly funded through a subcontract with Normandeau Associates related to FERC relicensing of dams in the Yadkin drainage.
As the FWGNA project has expanded, we have been accorded the
opportunity to examine the systematic collections of seven
other national or regional museums, in addition to the NCSM: the
National Museum of Natural History
(Smithsonian), the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia,
The Carnegie Museum of Natural History (Pittsburgh), the Delaware
Museum of Natural History, the Virginia Museum of Natural History
Georgia Museum of Natural History (Athens), and the Florida Museum of
Natural History (Gainesville). Although the North Carolina
holdings of some of these other institutions have not been extensive,
curatorial staffs have always been most helpful.
Ultimately our sample sites were located throughout the Atlantic drainages of North Carolina, in all ecoregions, all subdrainages, and all counties. A map (in PDF format) showing the distribution of sites is available as Figure 1. No “absence stations” are shown. If freshwater gastropods were not collected at a site, then no record resulted.
Collecting methods have varied greatly. The NCDWQ samples are semi-quantitative, taken by EPA standard methods (Barbour et al. 1999) combining kick-nets, timed searches, etc. Other collections were entirely qualitative, the result of simple untimed searches (Dillon 2006). All collections are now or soon will be housed at the NCSM, or (in the case of NCWRC) are extensively vouchered there. Our entire 4,418 record database is available (as an excel spreadsheet) from the senior author upon request.
The taxonomy employed by the FWGNA project is painstakingly researched, well-reasoned and insightful. Needless to say, it often differs strikingly from the gastropod taxonomy in common currency among casual users and most natural resource agencies. First-time visitors looking for information about particular species or genera might profitably begin their searches with a check for synonyms in our alphabetical index.
We thank Dr. Art Bogan and Ms. Jamie Smith for hosting us graciously at the North Carolina State Museum, providing technical assistance in a most timely and efficient manner. Gracious hosts at the other museums we have visited over the course of this project have included Bob Hershler at the USNM, Gary Rosenberg, Paul Callomon and Amanda Lawless at the ANSP, Tim Pearce at the CMNH, Liz Shea at the DMNH, Richard Hoffman at the VMNH, Liz McGhee at the GMNH, and John Slapcinsky at the FMNH.
The success of this project has in large part depended on the GIS and data analysis skills of Dr. Doug Florian and the great patience of web wizard Steve Bleezarde. Funding was provided by a subcontract from Normandeau Associates to compile a habitat fragmentation study on behalf of Yadkin Inc. Web development was supported by a Board of Directors grant from the Sierra Club.
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