Royal Society Snuffed Seychelles Snail Still Survives

aldabra

The Seychelles Aldabra Banded Snail (Rhachistia Aldabrae) is at the centre of a row about the very integrity of the centuries old Royal Society, whose first members included Isaac Newton and Christopher Wren.

A 2007 peer-reviewed study produced by Justin Gerlach in the Royal Society’s journals Biology Letters, claimed that the Aldabra Banded Snail had gone extinct in the late 1990s due to climate change, stating:

“It is proposed that the extinction of this species is a direct result of decreasing rainfall leading to increased mortality of juvenile snails.”

This was immediately disputed by experts in the field led by Oxford University ecologist Clive Hambler, who spent nine months doing field work on Aldabra, argued that there wasn’t enough evidence to justify to claim. They questioned whether Gerlach, who had spent only a few days on Aldabra, could genuinely describe his survey as either “exhaustive” or “extensive.” Hambler asked Biology Letters to print a rebuttal. However, despite doubts about the claims, the journal refused, claiming that Hambler’s paper had failed a peer review.

It later turned out that the two peer-reviewers who had accepted the erroneous Gerlach paper were the same two referees who rejected the subsequent rebuttal paper by Hambler and the other experts.

Unfortunately for the Royal Society and fortunately for the truth, on Saturday 23 August 2014, Shane Brice of the Seychelles Islands Foundation which administers the site, found living Aldabra Banded Snails, and this was confirmed by mollusc-expert Dr Vincent Florens of the University of Mauritius.

After hearing that the snail had been found, Mr Hambler wrote to the journal asking it to retract Mr Gerlach’s paper and publish his rebuttal. He wrote:

“Your original (Gerlach) paper on a climate-induced extinction had errors… yet it has come to be cited as one of the clearest examples of possible climate-induced global extinction…

The decline in reported records of the snail after the 1970s could be explained by a declining number of observers, and there has never been a serious sampling programme for it…”

He stated:

“I’d argue the species should be categorised as of ‘Least Concern’ in the IUCN Red List. There could easily be tens of thousands of them, and the population might benefit from climate change, natural or anthropogenic.” GWPF

This is not the first time that the apparent decline of a creature has been prematurely attributed to climate change. Costa Rica’s golden toad was said to have become extinct because of climate change, but it later turned out that a chytrid fungus was the carrier for a disease which wiped out the toad.  African clawed frogs, imported around the world for embryological research and pregnancy testing, and for sale in pet-shops had spread the disease. Breitbart

The Royal Society has not retracted the 2007 paper, and seems blithely unaware that their refusal to countenance the existence of a snail which they had previously declared as extinct, has in any way diminished their status. This is symptomatic of the lack of rigour and outright bias shown by this organisation in its desperation to push the climate change and global warming memes. The Royal Society was founded to be scientifically neutral, but if it will not pull itself away from politicisation, it runs the risk of becoming just another undistinguished cash-hungry NGO.

Steven Whalley

22-09-14