Back to the Master Naturalist Conference postings, which I know you’ve been looking forward to (maybe?). Finally I get to share all the land snail information I learned on Sunday of the conference. This was a topic I knew very little about, so it was all new to me.
Ben Hutchins gave the presentation, and wow, that dude knows a lot about snails. He told us so much about the snails that live all around us. His enthusiasm was very contagious, and by the time he was finished with his in-class presentation, we were all dying to get outside and look for some land snails. So, we stepped out of the hotel and went to the conveniently located riverside park just a short distance away.
We immediately started finding snails! First we found the tiny globular drop snails, which are the small white ones we’ve all seen, but had no idea what to call them.
Then we found the decollate snails I’d always thought were broken. Nope, they all lose their tips as they mature. Huh. We found lots of living examples of those.
We ended up finding at least five kinds of snails in our short walk. Others included white-lip globe snails, the very common Rabdotus, and the Asian Tramp snail.
We didn’t find any milk snails. Those are the ones I find a lot around Cameron. It turns out they aren’t native, but ARE the same escargot that the French eat with butter and garlic. My friend Pamela was extremely thrilled to learn this. She apparently has many meals’ worth at her house.
Salient Snail Stuff
Did you know that most of the land snails crawling in our leaf litter are so small that they are hard to spot with the naked eye? The best way to find them is to sift leaf litter, which he demonstrated using a really nice hand-made sifter.
Did you know they have “teeth?” The teeth are really sharp protruberances on the shells.
Also, snails need moisture to be able to get out and about and do their snail activities. If it gets dry, many types of land snails just go into hibernation until it rains. And some of them have been known to hibernate months or years!
What do they eat? Well, your pet snail will love carrots and lettuce. I’m sure they are hours of entertainment…
The Key to Land Snails?
It turns out that it’s not easy to get more information on land snails, because the last comprehensive book on the subject came out in the 1950s. Good news, though! Ben is working on new material that will grow up to be a book. He’s also developing a key to help identify snails that you find (a key uses a series of questions do narrow down genus and species in a type of organism).
We all got a sample snail, and a microscope to look through, and we practiced identifying our snails using the key. It was really fun, and Ben figured out a place where he needed to add a question or two to make it easier to ID a particular type of snail. We did science!
I’m really glad Ben shared copies of his work in progress. I’m putting my copy of his text, photos, and key in a binder for future use. He was right. Land snails are fascinating!