Thursday, 24 June 2010

Snail's Eye View: Now with real snails!

Everyone knows this experience. You're taking photos of a fungus or flower and are concentrating so much on the lighting and focus that you miss the tiny beetles, flies and mites crawling over your subject. It's only when you download the pics some time later that you spot them. And then they're so obvious, you wonder whether you're going daft in your old age how they managed to escape your notice.

It happened late this afternoon, when I took some photos of a stem of the wait-a-while or lawyer vine (Calamus australis) that's trying to take over my shed. Wait-a-while is a climbing palm that is common along rainforest edges. It derives both common names from the abundant, backward pointing hooks that help the plant latch onto suitable substrates for climbing. They also latch onto unsuitable substrates include sleeves, pants and skin and can take quite a while to dislodge. I find that swearing helps.

Anyway, after I photographed the spines along the main stem — which seem to have no function other than to deter herbivores — and downloaded the pics, I spotted two little shells nestling among the spines. I'm not sure exactly what they, but I'm pretty sure they're either euconulids or helicarionids. I'll have to examine one of them under the hand lens. This is not going to be easy. Well, the hand lens bit will be a doddle. Finding the critters again will be the tricky part.

Here's that stem again with the snails' locations marked. (It would have been helpful if the plant had looked like this in the wild. I have similar gripes about geological maps.)

Here's the upper one.

And the one further down the stem.

Living among the spines makes sense when there are so many tree-dwelling vertebrates — birds, lizards and frogs — that would like nothing more than a juicy snack. Makes me wonder what might be living on stinging trees ...

More on these snails* when I get to see them up close.


* May not actually be the same snails.


budak said...

looks as nasty as the local Bayas palm (Oncosperma horridum)

Snail said...

Ouch! I can see where it got the specific epithet from!

biobabbler said...

verrry interesting. smart snails!

desertnutmeg said...

No, no-it's none of that! It is that your superior intellect is so focused. It has nothing to do with maturation.-nope, no way.

Great shots by the way and, for my two cents, it would help if men were marked in the wild like that: good one (yellow circle), bad one (red X).

Anonymous said...

I was starting to think you'd given up on molluscs! Very nice find BTW.

Russell Constable said...

Hey Bronwen I have found that swearing helps heaps when hooked up by wait a while too. Also throwing things is useful if you have something in your hands however don't throw them too far as recovering them can lead to further entanglement...further throwing and the whole process can continue for hours!
I had a similar experience to your snail episode with a Mudskipper I photographed. The scientist I sent the pic to asked about the marine leech behind the creatures head...oops how did I not see that!What are my chances of finding that Mudskipper again??

Tyto Tony said...

Cycled into dangling wait-a-while along Cape Trib road once. I swear the cursing didn't help.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Snail.
Those spines really look "over-engineered".
Surely half as many spines would work as well?
I know what you mean about missing some little creature inside a fungus. Very frustrating, and as you say, what chance finding the snails again.
I am sure now you know to look for them, you will find heaps of them and wonder why you never looked before.

Dave Coulter said...

Very cool!

Snail said...

Apologies, everyone. Internet connection as slow as extricating yourself from wait-a-while.

Haven't checked out the vine again, but will try to get back to it tomorrow. Haven't actually touched the spines on the stem. I'm guessing they're like needles, but they might be soft and flexible.

Yeah, right.

In the same way that the pain a of stinging tree is just like a nettle rash.

I will report back.