Dlinza pinwheel (Trachycystis clifdeni)

Also known as: Dlinza forest pinwheel
GenusTrachycystis (1)
SizeDiameter: up to 9.7 mm (2)

The Dlinza pinwheel is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The exceptionally striking Dlinza pinwheel (Trachycystis clifdeni) immediately stands out for the unusual whorl of bristles that radiate out from the edge of its shell, somewhat resembling the pinwheel firework after which it is named. The fragile, almost translucent pale-brown shell is a spiral shape with up to five whorls, sculptured with widely spaced axial riblets (2).

The Dlinza pinwheel is known only from Dlinza Forest, in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, which covers an area of just circa 250 hectares (1) (2).

A unique snail, the Dlinza pinwheel is found in coastal scarp forest (1) beneath leaves of understorey vegetation, under fallen logs, in leaf-litter, and occasionally in damp swampy areas (2).

Nothing is known of the Dlinza pinwheel’s reproductive biology, life history patterns or feeding behaviour.

The Dlinza Forest is officially protected and is under the control of Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife (1) (3). However, the forest’s location within an urban environment does give some cause for concern. Furthermore, the Dlinza pinwheels' very limited distribution means that it is highly vulnerable to the damaging effects of extreme stochastic weather conditions and climate change (1).

The fact that Dlinza Forest is an officially protected area, supported by an enthusiastic local community, does confer a degree of protection to the Critically Endangered Dlinza pinwheel. Nevertheless, the small and exposed nature of its home means that this rare and fascinating snail remains somewhat helpless to the changing world around it (1). More research into the ecology and behaviour of this small but captivating species may help unearth valuable information to help guide appropriate conservation action and bring the diminutive ‘pinwheel’ back from the brink of extinction.

For more information on the Dlinza pinwheel: 

Authenticated (13/07/2006) by Dr. Dai G. Herbert, Chief Curator: Mollusca, KwaZulu-Natal Museum, and member of the IUCN/SSC Southern African Invertebrate, and Mollusc Specialist Groups.

  1. IUCN Red List (June, 2006)
  2. Inland Invertebrate Initiative: Database of Threatened Invertebrates of South Africa (June, 2006)
  3. Herbert, D. (2006) Pers. comm.