Land Snails! Everywhere!

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.

snail1
Here Ben shows us all the parts of a snail. I really like the umbilicus.

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.

snail3
The small but mighty globular drop snail, and my hand.

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.

snail4
See how the end of the decollate snail looks like it’s broken off? That’s normal!

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.

img_4593
Rabdotus, front and back. Whichever is which.

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.

img_4597
A white lip globe snail. So shiny. I think these are the ones with an operculum. I could be wrong.

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.

snail5
Ben shows us a snail he sorted out of the leaf litter along a path.

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.

snail2
Ben has on a light, and is looking through a loup at a tiny jewel snail.

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!

 

 

 

Looking Forward to a Master Naturalist Weekend

I’m all a-twitter about getting to go to my first Texas Master Naturalist conference in Georgetown this weekend. I’ll get to spend time with my friends from the El Camino Real chapter, and meet lots of new and interesting folks, I hope.

snail
Hey look, a land snail! I find them fascinating!

I made Anita laugh a lot when I got so excited about an email last night that I had to run downstairs to ACT on it. What was it? Why, it was a notice that a spot had opened up in the session on “The Land Snails of Texas.” I have NO idea why she thought my excitement was sort of hilarious. I really want to know more about those snails I see everywhere, especially on the walls of the Dutchtowne Cafe in Cameron.

Of course, snails aren’t ALL I’m looking forward to. I also get to go look at a cave in the neighborhood where I used to live, the Brushy Creek/Avery Ranch area that straddles Austin, Cedar Park, and Round Rock. We always knew there were caves in the limestone below the area, but when one collapsed recently, it became big news (the article I link to here has lots of cool pictures of the cave before it got all cemented up)! The one we are going to look at is NOT directly under any houses, and is apparently a good size. I love the karst and limestone, I guess because I lived on it for 20 years.

You readers will like that I am going to two sessions on taking better photos of plants and wildlife. I hope to learn some iPhone techniques and to take good notes on what I can do when I get my other camera going.

I’ll share more of what I learn in the coming days.

rain2
It’s dreary in north Austin today, but at least I have my reminders to breathe and exhale. And happy plants.

And as for the weather

It’s all rainy AGAIN. Austin has been under a boil order since Monday, which is a pain, but it’s not like we were hit by a tornado or hurricane or anything. The hope is that clearing will happen for the weekend and all the outdoor activities. There’s a real good chance!

At least it’s cooled off and we’ve enjoyed 50s and 60s outside for the last couple of days. That’s nice. Ahhh.