Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Nighttime Hunting

Hey ya'll 

I found myself rather refreshed today after the long drive home and decided, before entering the house, to dig around the garden a bit to see (among other things) how many snails I could find but also, what other animals might have been significantly incensed by this morning's rains that they would consent to crawling out of their hiding places and gracing me with their appearance! Some toads perhaps? Or a centipede or two? As it turned out, every pot I overturned, every hole I dug, yielded nothing more but more and more snails! They must surely be loving this wet season we are having and are probably taking the opportunity to get down on some serious eating. It is at times like these that I can't help but feel extremely sorry for gardeners like my poor mother (Snails are virtually impossible to get rid off!!!). Besides having taken a few back to observe, I also decided to mark the ones I found tonight (a small dot of nail varnish on the shell should do a trick) in an attempt to keep track of all of them and compare the growth of snails in captivity and in the wild (these conical shelled ones can grow to the size of a fully grown adult Syrian hamster... and then some!).

Now they might not look like much on their own, but snails are really a rather peculiar species of animal! I mean, besides the simple fact they (along with the millipedes) were possibly one of the first few pioneers to become fully adapted to life on land, the simply history of their evolution itself is something to remark upon. Indeed it sure looks like although a number of snails made the radical transition from sea to land that their superficial anatomy pretty much remained unchanged. The shell, for instance, which was more than adapt at defending the snail from certain predators in the ocean... turned out to be pretty useful in retaining moisture on land as well!!! Similarly, though they have diversified over vast geographical regions, their diets have remained the same and most (with a few exceptions) feed by scraping off bits of plants and algae using a toothed tongue!!! Snails generally come in all shapes and sizes but perhaps the best diversity can be found in the ocean. The snails that I find around here are of the genus Achantina and are characterized by their conical shells and large sizes.

Among all the conical shelled snails of various sizes, though, I did find a peculiar one that seemed out of place... a snail with a spiral, flat shell!!! What a find!!! They are not exceptionally rare or particularly uncommon as a species, but indeed, this was the first time I had ever seen such a snail at our garden, indeed the surrounding neighborhood! Now just wonder... how long... and over how many days did it have to creep to make it to such green pastures. It was so cute and adorable I could not bear to leave it out with the rest of the snails. Imagine if something were to happen to the poor thing... after all the effort it (possibly) took to get here! Instead I took it inside to house with the rest of my brood. I should probably start marking them soon... before they grow too much, so I can distinguish the individuals... and probably start weighing them too. In the meantime... Isn't that the cutest snail you've ever seen? 

It was wet... and sticky... and not something I would do again in a hurry... I think in the future I shall just pick them up with a stick. 
I did find other "treasures" out hunting, besides snails though, and I think the best of all would be a large and striking looking hawk moth, but I will perhaps save that specimen for a post of its own. With all the influx of other invertebrates and insects I'm almost forgetting that my main passion is with lepidoptera!!! (guilty!!!) But perhaps next season, when the swallowtails return to our garden to breed.


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