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Cepaea nemoralis

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What's that snail?

The latest wonderful publication courtesy of the Conchological Society is an illustrated guide to the land snails of the British Isles.

ImageHaven't you always wanted to know what kind of snail that was eating your plants? Well here's just the thing for you. It's a laminated fold out strip with 9 pages of pictures and three pages of explanatory text. Did you know there were 99 species of snail living in the British Isles? The page I've photographed is the one with Helix pomatia - Roman snail, Helix lucorum - Turkish snail and Cornu aspersum - what we snail farmers still call Helix aspersa and what most people call the common snail - or some stronger vocabulary when it's destroying their garden. The pictures on this page helpfully show the difference between Cepaea nemoralis and Cepaea hortensis - those lovely stripey or coloured snails we see so often. It's so easy to get them mixed up. Nemoralis has a brown lip and hortensis has a white lip so most of the little snails in my garden I think are hortensis. I am sure you were just dying to know that!

 

 

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A fine romance ... for snails

As it is Valentine's Day I thought I'd better write an appropriate post. Last year I joined the Conchological Society and I really enjoy reading the articles in Molluscan World. Last November there was an article describing the behaviour of a scalariform Cepaea nemoralis:

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Rosemary Hill acquired this beautiful snail with its extended shell, named Curly, from a garden centre, looked after it and observed its behaviour. What she observed was some interesting activity that seemed to be a preparation for attracting a mate. The first one, shell cleaning is something I've seen my snails doing. They stretch their bodies right out and round so they can clean the shell. It's amazing that Curly managed to reach the tip of hers. The other activity was what she called 'hanging around' where the snail climbs up to a high place and just hangs there as though waiting for a mate to pass by. It's a long time since I was a teenager but I seem to remember it involved quite a lot of dressing up and hanging around in public places hoping someone would notice. I wonder if the snail is doing something like that too. Hanging about is certainly something else I've seen my snails doing.

ImageNormally if a snail gets upside down it holds on tight with the shell pressed up against the surface but this is different - lots of the foot is on show - very 'come hither' I'd say. Maybe its stretching things too far to describe this as romance but it's tempting especially today.

By the way, Curly did mate and lay eggs and none of the babies had scalariform shells - they were all a normal shape.

(Molluscs World is the magazine of the Conchological Society. The article 'A scalariform Cepaea nemoralis' by Rosemary Hill was an article in last November's edition)

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Migrant snails with migrant people

I’m amazed at the number of people who heard this snail story on radio 4 a few days ago. It was about a piece of fascinating research into the distribution of Cepaea nemoralis – the brown lipped banded snails - which has been a food source in the Eastern Pyrenees for thousands of years. ImageThey are pretty little snails which come in a variety of colours and can be kept as pets.(http://petsnails.proboards.com/thread/11040) This one has a lot of stripes but the number of stripes varies and I also have yellow ones in my garden. (Note: the snail pictured is Cepaea hortensis - they mainly differ by the colour of their lip) The experiment involved looking closely at their mitochondria – those energy generators of every cell. The results suggest that a human population in Mesolithic times migrated from the Pyrenees to Ireland and took their favourite food with them. In a wave of colonisation 8,000 years ago it seems Cepaea wasn’t the only thing the people took with them because they also seem to have transported the strawberry tree, the Kerry slug, and the Pyrenean glass snail. They’ve even worked out how they were transported from the Pyrenees down the river Garonne and across the sea - amazing!

Migrant people have taken edible snails all over the world with them as they travelled.

(Grindon AJ, Davison A (2013) Irish Cepaea nemoralis Land Snails Have a Cryptic Franco-Iberian Origin That Is Most Easily Explained by the Movements of Mesolithic Humans. PLoS ONE 8(6): e65792. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0065792)

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