Macro Monday: Cantareus apertus

A lucky encounter with a juvenile Cantareus apertus, also known as the green snail. Native of the Mediterranean and North Africa, these snails spend most of their life underground, but emerge after rain. Subadults like this one have a yellowish-green shell and body, which will darken with time: as adults they are almost black fleshed and have uniformely brown shells.

In spite of their small size (about 2,5-3 cm in diameter), these snails are highly prized for culinary purposes, especially in southern Italian peninsula of Salento, where they are known as municeddhi, municedde or moniceddi. (They are said to be far superior to other edible snails, even Helix pomatia)

 

 

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Little crawlers grow up

Six-week old Cornu aspersum (a.k.a Cantareus aspersus or Helix aspersa), the common garden snail. Born transparent, they began developping shell pigmentation after a couple of weeks, starting with the bands. The final pattern of their shells however won’t be certain until they have fully grown: until then the bands continue evolving as the shell grows and may become thicker or thinner, darker or lighter, and adjacent bands may merge into a single, broader one while others may simply fade and disappear. As such, even if apparently all juveniles developped five bands at first, adults may have less.

Their bodies are still light coloured: body pigmentation will take a few months to become apparent, starting with their head and dorsal stripe.

Eaters of the dead

Crawling in a wood in broad daylight, two Arion slugs approach a lucky meal: a dead conspecific. Many snails and slugs are saprophagic, i.e. feed on decaying matter and dead animals. And some of them, like Arion slugs, won’t hesitate to eat dead snails or slugs of their own kind.

Cannibalism in some form or another is not infrequent among gastropods: several snails (including Pomacea bridgesii and other common aquarium snails) will feed on the remains of dead conspecifics, and sibling cannibalism has been observed among hatchlings (e.g. newborns of the common garden snail, Cornu aspersum, will sometimes eat the other eggs that haven’t hatched yet). Few species, however, hunt live individuals of their same species: Schizoglossa novoseelandica being an example. By contrast, despite being known as “cannibal snail”, Euglandina rosea (rosy wolfsnail) will rarely prey upon individuals of the same species.

GLOSSARY

Intraspecific predation: from Latin intra “within”, predation within the same species = cannibalism
Adelphophagy: from Ancient Greek ἀδελφός (adelphos) "brother" & φάγος (phagos) "eater" = sibling cannibalism

Literature:

Keeping snails as pets: how to set up a simple terrarium

You just found a little snail in your garden (or was it your salad, maybe?), and despite its slime and all, you actually think it’s a cute critter. So cute that the idea the resident gardener (spouse, parent, neighbour…) wouldn’t think twice about killing it makes you feel sorry for it and you decide to take it home for safety.

Whatever your reasons, congratulations, you have a pet snail! Now what?

Brought to you by popular demand, this post will share with you the basic tips and information for setting up a simple but effective terrarium for local snails READ

Mother & baby

Adult Cornu aspersum, carrying one of its newborns

Close-up

More pictures of the hatchlings.

Life and romance of a one-eyed Roman snail

Or: Reproduction and Birth in Helix pomatia.

Blinded by love? Alezan the burgundy snail (Helix pomatia, a.k.a Roman snail) has only one eye. Whether this is the result of trauma or birth defect, it’s unclear, but one thing is certain: it hasn’t prevented Alezan from living a healthy, functional life – or successfully reproducing, for the matter.

Alezan and Margot, mating. Both adults (and fellow Helix pomatia Blanche, not shown)
were purchased from a snail farm in Austria

Mating in Helix pomatia occurs in a frontal, standing position: the two individuals face each other, their pedal soles in contact. As most land snails, Helix pomatia is an incomplete hermaphroditic species, with each individual having both male and female organs, but unable to self-fertilise.

Laying eggs

After mating, both adults will lay eggs, in a hole several centimetres deep in the ground, where earth is moist and soft. The eggs are fairly large (about 1cm in diametre). Egg laying is a strenuous activity, which may take up to a full day for a burgundy snail.

Alezan’s babies, leaving the nest: it may take the newborns a few days to leave the underground after hatching

Eggs were laid on September 14, and hatched after two weeks. In the wild hatchlings born so late in the year may not survive their first winter.

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Further reading:

Wonders from the East: Amphidromus

Shells like jewels: when we think of fabulous shells with vibrant colours and elaborated patterns, our mind automatically conjures up pictures of marine mollusks… oblivious to the tremendous beauty of certain land species.

(Photo: source)

Amphidromus is among them. A genus of arboreal land snails from south-western Asia, Amphidromus is notable for its large, polymorphic shells, which have fascinated naturalists and collectors since the 18th century.

Dextral and sinistral Amphidromus shells (Photo: source)

Randomly dimorphic coiling? While most gastropod species show a predominance of either right- or left-handed coiling, in a significant number of Amphidromus species, individuals of the same population can be either dextral or sinistral.

Amphidromus adamsi adamsi (Photo: source)

(PS: And I do not know about you, but I find the live animals even more fascinating than their empty shell.)

Literature:

Meet the Behemoth

Young giant – I was initiated into the world of giant African land snails in 2009, when somebody gave me a baby Achatina fulica, no bigger than a pellet of cat food.

In a matter of 12 months, her shell has grown to a length of 12,5 cm and has developped 9 whorls, an unusually high number for this species.

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