12 March 2012

Conchological Investigation

When I first moved here the garden was knee deep in snails and slugs.  One night I went slug hunting with a bucket of salted water. I caught 50 of them. But now the garden has two ponds the frogs they have attracted have almost cleared me out of slimy plant eaters. Occasionally I see a small juvenile slug, but I don't think there are many snails left now.

While I was tidying up a couple of weeks ago I found this empty shell.  Flush with success from the ladybird hunt I rooted around the internet to get some information on its previous occupant.

The process of identification is a bit more complicated than with ladybirds, involving shell shape, whorls, lips and umbilicuses (I’ve just had to Google the plural of umbilicus – umbilici would also be acceptable). Apparently there is a difference between malacology which studies molluscs as whole organisms, and conchology which just studies their shells. Now, my interest in the ravishers of my garden can only go so far as admiring their pretty shells, so I left the malacologists to their fun, and turned to The Conchological Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Following their labyrinthine system this empty shell was revealed to be a Cepaea nemoralis, a banded snail. Bit of an anticlimax, but there you have it - a name.
How to count the whorls of a snail
However, if you do want to continue your conchological investigations you could look at the Evolution Megalab, which it seems is something to do with the Open University.  The idea is to survey the banded snails in your area, and from the data scientists can plot climate change and investigate the changing numbers of song thrush, which feed on banded snails.

I like the idea that what goes on in my insignificant garden mirrors bigger European wide changes within the natural world