Conus : First comprehensive conservation red list assessment of a marine gastropod mollusc genus

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Peters, Howard ; O'Leary, Bethan C. ; Hawkins, Julie P. ; Carpenter, Kent E. ; Roberts, Callum M. (2013)

Marine molluscs represent an estimated 23% of all extant marine taxa, but research into their conservation status has so far failed to reflect this importance, with minimal inclusion on the authoritative Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). We assessed the status of all 632 valid species of the tropical marine gastropod mollusc, Conus (cone snails), using Red List standards and procedures to lay the groundwork for future decadal monitoring, one of the first fully comprehensive global assessments of a marine taxon. Three-quarters (75.6%) of species were not currently considered at risk of extinction owing to their wide distribution and perceived abundance. However, 6.5% were considered threatened with extinction with a further 4.1% near threatened. Data deficiency prevented 13.8% of species from being categorised although they also possess characteristics that signal concern. Where hotspots of endemism occur, most notably in the Eastern Atlantic, 42.9% of the 98 species from that biogeographical region were classified as threatened or near threatened with extinction. All 14 species included in the highest categories of Critically Endangered and Endangered are endemic to either Cape Verde or Senegal, with each of the three Critically Endangered species restricted to single islands in Cape Verde. Threats to all these species are driven by habitat loss and anthropogenic disturbance, in particular from urban pollution, tourism and coastal development. Our findings show that levels of extinction risk to which cone snails are exposed are of a similar magnitude to those seen in many fully assessed terrestrial taxa. The widely held view that marine species are less at risk is not upheld.
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