Can you imagine a species so beautiful that, despite laws prohibiting removal, people can’t seem to resist taking them home?

The Painted Snail species (Polymita) is endemic to Cuba.  Unfortunately, extinction is a real possibility.   Their attractive shells are desirable for jewelry, art, and collections.

Painted Snail Shells
Image by Pnsj88 at

Dr. Bernardo Reyes-Tur, a professor of conservation biology at University Oriente in Cuba, and his students are trying to study these beauties and make a positive impact on the species’ future.  In 1995, Dr. Reyes-Tur began a snail breeding laboratory.  However, he faced a difficult challenge finding a sufficient and affordable source of appropriate containers for the effort.   

His students offered an ingenious solution.  They recognized that the liter water bottles most frequently used and discarded by the island’s tourists would make a perfect environment for breeding and management.

The breeding program and the research appear to be thriving.  If only the same could be said of the species.   If you see these incredible shells on sale, please don’t buy them.  Let’s do our part to ensure that future generations can stumble upon one of these gems when wandering through a Cuban mangrove. 


More info and a great picture of the breeding lab —

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