The secrets of life for over-wintering snails:
1) find a friend, or twenty, to huddle with
2) create a mucus seal around your shell opening to conserve moisture
3) slow down your metabolism and snooze.
Snails are much more difficult to identify than you might imagine, especially when you don’t – as I didn’t – examine all the relevant parts of the shell that help with identification. The opening of the shell, for example, often holds key features. In this particular case, I was happy just to watch this tiny creature going about its daily life.
Thanks to the expert whose voluntary task it is to verify any slug records input to the local biodiversity records database, I now know that what I thought was a Leopard slug (Limax maximus) is actually a Green cellar slug (Limacus maculatus). The expert kindly explained: ‘You are far from the first person to have made this misidentification. Limax maximus is brown, rather rougher and dryer in texture than either of the Limacus species,[and] is usually solitary.’ Always learning!
And now for something completely different….
I don’t often look at molluscs but these banded beauties caught my eye when I was walking across the Cardiff Bay Barrage earlier this week. I’m fairly sure they’re Cernuella virgata, Striped or Banded snails.
The presence of dark-on-light spiralling bands on their shells is one defining feature, as is their semi-spherical, rather than flat, shape, and the small open umbilicus. And they’re usually found on coastal sites, particularly in calcareous grassland, which fits the Barrage location.
Deliquesce: verb; (of organic matter) become liquid, typically during decomposition. Mid 18th century from Latin deliquescere ‘dissolve’, from de- ‘down’ + liquescere ‘become liquid’ (Oxford Dictionary).
These Shaggy inkcaps (Coprinus comatus) may look sturdy and robust but, like all inkcaps and many other species of fungi, they only last a few days, sometimes as little as 24 hours, before turning into a rather disgusting-looking liquid mush, as shown by the specimen below. If you want to read more about the how and why of that process, about the inkcaps’ ‘habit of destroying themselves with their own enzymes’, check out The Dish on Deliquescence in Coprinus Species by Jonathan Landsman on the Cornell Mushroom blog.
Many humans may not know that inkcaps quickly deliquesce but slugs do. This slimy beastie was digging in to a Shaggy inkcap delicacy before the fungus had a chance to digest itself.
I had to chuckle during this morning’s brief stomp between bouts of heavy rain. The local slugs, which I thought would be at home in such conditions, sliding on the grass, slithering over leaves, were more literally ‘at home’, sheltering in the deep flower cups of bindweed.
I’ve noticed snails cwtched up together many times in the past but I’d never observed the nitty gritty of what they were actually doing until I saw this pair. Because they’d pulled slightly apart, it was possible to see their ‘apparatus’ in action.
And what about the tiny white spike on the snail at left? Is that one of the love darts that snails stab their mates with? I don’t know enough about snails to be sure but, for more on this point, you can read about the sharp end of snail sex on the National Geographic website here.
When wet weather forces a change of plan, sometimes the only thing for it is to head to the woods and turn over some logs, because there’s never nothing to see under a log!
Two slugs, possibly even the same species despite their obvious colour differences.
Eggs? Those on the left might well be slug or snail eggs but the ones on the right were much smaller and seemed caught up in a web or perhaps just strands of slime. I didn’t poke them – didn’t want to disturb them – so I’m not sure of their texture.
A slime mould, though not as much slime as I was hoping for. Possibly one of the Trichia species, perhaps Trichia persimilis.
A springtail, probably one of the Entomobrya species but I really needed a photo of its upper side to be able to confirm its identification.
Hairy snails (Trochulus hispidus), I believe, as the only other hairy snail has a more conical shell. It always seems odd to me for a snail to have hairs … but odd is good, interesting, never boring!
When the rain finally abated mid afternoon, I went to vote and then headed down to the seaside, to clear my head with some fresh air. The tide was out so I couldn’t resist having a brief fossick along the beach. It’s a stony shore and there are never many shells to be found but I did find a few nestled amongst the stones.