Species Profile

Hotwater Physa

Scientific Name: Physella wrighti
Taxonomy Group: Molluscs
COSEWIC Range: British Columbia
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: April 2008
COSEWIC Status: Endangered
COSEWIC Status Criteria: B1ac(iv)+2ac(iv)
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: This small snail is an endemic species living only within the hotsprings complex located in Liard River Hotsprings Provincial Park in British Columbia. The population is small, numbering fewer than 10,000 individuals and occupies an extremely restricted habitat around the margins of two pools and an outlet stream. Population size is believed to fluctuate by at least an order of magnitude in this short-lived snail (~1 year lifespan). The species is a habitat specialist requiring geothermally regulated water and substrates near the water/air interface in areas of no current. The hotsprings complex has been in use by humans for over 200 years. The species has survived structural modification and maintenance of the pools, the introduction of foreign substances such as soaps and shampoos, and trampling. However, a single event such as abrupt changes in water flow, chemical contamination or introduction of exotic species, could significantly affect persistence of this snail.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Endangered in April 1998. Status re-examined and confirmed in May 2000 and April 2008.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2003-06-05

Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.

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Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | Recovery Team | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Hotwater Physa

Hotwater Physa Photo 1

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Description

The Hotwater Physa is a tiny freshwater snail adapted to live in hot springs. The species has a high-spired shell that is about the size of your smallest fingernail. The species’ shell is blackish-grey, coils to the left, and has an ear-shaped opening. (Updated 2017/07/19)

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Distribution and Population

The hotsprings complex in Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park in northeastern British Columbia, Canada is the only place in the world where you can find the Hotwater Physa. The population is small and is made up of fewer than ten thousand snails. (Updated 2017/07/19)

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Habitat

The Hotwater Physa is adapted to live in water that is 23 to 40 degrees Celsius. The species is usually found just above and below the surface of the water on mats of algae, woody debris or sediment. It depends on areas of little to no water flow. (Updated 2017/07/19)

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Biology

The Hotwater Physa moves along a solid surface or uses a mucus trail to change its specific gravity to rise above the water. The species depends on its external environment to regulate its body temperature. Hotwater Physa are hermaphrodites. This means each individual has both male and female reproductive organs. Hotwater Physa spawn in spring, then the species lays crescent-shaped egg masses above the waterline. These egg masses contain 6 to 18 eggs. Eggs hatch into juveniles after several days. Most Hotwater Physa breed only once and die shortly after laying their eggs. The species lifespan is thought to be only one year. This snail is thought to graze on bacteria and algae that grow on underwater surfaces. Hotwater Physa may be a food item for animals in the area, including Lake Chub, Lesser Yellowlegs, ducks, and frogs. (Updated 2017/07/19)

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Threats

As the Hotwater Physa occupies a very limited area, it is vulnerable to many local threats. Most threats to the Hotwater Physa are through potential changes to the hotspring habitat as a result of human activities relating to recreation within the park, or potential industrial activities affecting source water. Threats include changes to the flow regime of the hot springs, introduction of deleterious substances, physical habitat destruction or alteration, introduced species, and collecting. Visitors of the hot springs may threaten the species through water contamination and trampling. (Updated 2017/07/19)

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Protection

Federal Protection

The Hotwater Physa is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.

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Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for Hotwater Physa (Physella wrighti) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry

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Recovery Team

Pacific Region Species at Risk Program

  • DFO Pacific Region - MPO région du Pacifique - Chair/Contact - Fisheries and Oceans Canada
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Recovery Progress and Activities

A Recovery Strategy for the Hotwater Physa was published in 2007. Several recovery initiatives have taken place since. Effort was made to standardize methods and conduct surveys on population size, habitat use, patterns, and environmental factors. Genetic studies were also done to distinguish the Hotwater Physa from similar species. The British Columbia Ministry of Environment initiated assessments for riparian disturbance and water contaminants caused by park visitors. As a result, public access to a portion of the hot spring complex was restricted. Public outreach activities have also occurred, including improved signage in the park and a television feature on the Liard River Hot Springs. (Updated 2017/07/19)

Documents

PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

14 record(s) found.

Reports on the Progress of Recovery Document Implementation

COSEWIC Status Reports

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Hotwater Physa (2008-11-26)

    This small snail is an endemic species living only within the hotsprings complex located in Liard River Hotsprings Provincial Park in British Columbia. The population is small, numbering fewer than 10,000 individuals and occupies an extremely restricted habitat around the margins of two pools and an outlet stream. Population size is believed to fluctuate by at least an order of magnitude in this short-lived snail (~1 year lifespan). The species is a habitat specialist requiring geothermally regulated water and substrates near the water/air interface in areas of no current. The hotsprings complex has been in use by humans for over 200 years. The species has survived structural modification and maintenance of the pools, the introduction of foreign substances such as soaps and shampoos, and trampling. However, a single event such as abrupt changes in water flow, chemical contamination or introduction of exotic species, could significantly affect persistence of this snail.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for Hotwater Physa (Physella wrighti) in Canada (2007-01-29)

    Hotwater Physa, Physella wrighti, is an aquatic snail known globally from one location at Liard River Hotsprings Provincial Park, a small hotsprings complex located in north-central British Columbia (BC). The snail was first collected in 1973 and scientifically described in 1985 (Te and Clarke 1985). Liard River Hotsprings Provincial Park is a unique system of thermal springs that provide consistently warm lotic and lentic habitat for several populations of locally endemic animals and plants. The warm shallow marsh and aquatic environments do not freeze and allow vegetation to thrive throughout the year.

Action Plans

  • Action Plan for the Hotwater Physa (Physella wrighti) in Canada (2018-07-31)

    The Hotwater Physa (Physella wrighti) was listed as Endangered under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) in 2003. This Action Plan is considered one in a series of documents that are linked and should be taken into consideration together, including the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) Status Report, Recovery Potential Assessment and Recovery Strategy.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2007 - 2008 (2008-08-28)

    2008 Annual Report to the The Minister of the Environment and the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

Permits and Related Agreements

  • Explanation for issuing permit(#DFO-17-PPAC-00018), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2017-06-15)

    The activities authorized by this permit consist of: a) collection of approximately 300 live Hotwater Physa per collection event (with a maximum of 1,000 live individuals annually), b) transport of individuals on same day as collection to Royal Saskatchewan Museum for life history, taxonomic, and systematics studies, c) euthanasia of a maximum of 1,000 individuals annually, d) transfer of all specimens to Royal Saskatchewan Museum, Royal British Columbia Museum, and/or Canadian Museum of Nature and e) characterization of habitat.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#DFO-PAF SARA 220), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2011-06-01)

    Authorized representatives of BC Parks will carry out construction and replacement in order to redevelop the Liard Hotspring facility. Activities will have minimal effects on this species at risk as per the pre-conditions outlined below.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#DFO-PAF SARA 247), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2012-03-12)

    Authorized representatives of Department of Fisheries and Oceans will carry out a Hotwater Physa survey and set up systems for ongoing monitoring of the species in order to collect data and continually monitor the species. The ultimate goal of the activities is to assist in the recovery of this species by completing projects listed in the Schedule of Studies in the Recovery Strategy for Hotwater Physa.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#DFO-PAF SARA 260), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2012-09-11)

    Authorized representatives from the Province of British Columbia will dismantle the present existing deck and pool facility and will redevelop a new structure in order to ensure the security and safety of the hot springs facility. The ultimate goal of the activities is to assist in the recovery of this species by improving the Hotsprings facility to reduce the potential harm to humans and to the species. Activities will have minimal effects on this species at risk.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#DFO-PAF SARA 265), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2013-03-01)

    Authorized representatives of the Province of British Columbia will collect snails from the Liard Hotsprings for a morphological and genetic comparison in order to confirm that the snails present in the complex are Hotwater Physa. Authorized representatives will also undertake a partial survey of Hotwater Physa to increase the understanding of species distribution within the complex and collect video footage to highlight the on-going conservation efforts being put forth to recover Hotwater Physa. The ultimate goal of the activities is to assist in the recovery of this species by maintaining the population within it natural geographic range and finalizing a monitoring protocol to enable population surveys to be carried out throughout the year.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#SECT 06 SCI 018), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2006-07-27)

    The research is a survey of the Hotwater physa, Physella wrighti, to estimate population distribution and abundance, in order to monitor the population of this freshwater snail found in a single hot spring site in Canada. Researchers will gather data regarding the density of snail populations and the characteristics of the habitat it utilizes in order to provide an updated assessment of its status. The proposed methodology allows accurate, monitoring of this population. Estimates of snail density per square meter will be calculated based on repeated sweeps of vegetation to dislodge snails. Where snails are found on open substrate, counts are done by quadrat. Attempts will be made to document egg case deposition. Population density estimates and ecosystem data will be sampled for every meter of stream where P. wrighti is known to occur. Each sample site will be georeferenced and documented using digital photography.

Critical Habitat Orders

  • Critical Habitat of the Hotwater Physa (Physella wrighti) Order (2019-02-06)

    The Hotwater Physa (Physella wrighti) is a small freshwater snail found only within the Liard River Hot Springs complex located in Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park in northeastern British Columbia. While there is currently no evidence of a population decline, Hotwater Physa has a very small and localized distribution in Canada which makes it vulnerable to the risk of extinction due to human activities or catastrophic events.

Recovery Document Posting Plans

  • Recovery Document Posting Plan - Fisheries and Oceans Canada - Fiscal Year 2016-2017 (2018-09-28)

    Under the Species at Risk Act (SARA), the competent Minister(s) must prepare a recovery strategy within one year of listing a species on Schedule 1 of SARA as endangered and within two years of listing a species as extirpated or threatened. A management plan must be prepared within three years for a species listed as special concern. Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is accountable for 111 of the 518 species listed under SARA. As of February 2016, proposed recovery strategies, management plans and action plans for 57 of those species have not yet been posted to the Species at Risk Public Registry. An additional 23 aquatic species have proposed management or action plans coming due in the future. The following outlines the Department’s plan for posting proposed documents for 64 species on the Species at Risk Public Registry. The Department has a plan to post recovery strategies for 9 species, management plans for 13 species, and action plans for 42 species over the next year. Original publication of the Recovery Document Posting Plan: 2016-05-02
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