Friday, 22 May 2009


One of the better things to come from a few days of rainy weather, is the profusion of gastropods which are to be seen. This morning we found many snails crawling across our path of various different sizes and colours.

On closer inspection these snails are quite beautiful. Their shells are shiny and marked to a greater or lesser extent, with bands of colour.

The 'base' colour of the shells range from a pale greenish white, to reddish-brown.

One in particular was very handsome - if you can ascribe that adjective to a snail! Almost golden in the sunlight with clear stripes spiraling around it's shell.

Seemingly intent on getting to the other side of the path before becoming the lunch of a thrush, all of these snails, despite their differing appearance, are the same species. The White-Lipped Snail (Cepaea hortensis). The name refers not to the actual 'lips' of the snail, but to the white (or paler) edge - or lip - to the shell opening.

These snails are hermaphrodite and have a strange love life and mating ritual. This involves mature snails producing a hard, chitinous 'dart' which it then attempts to stab into any available part of it's mate. This stabbing is done in a rather haphazard way and sometimes with enormous force. They have been known to impale internal organs or even to stab right through the recipient and out the other side! This weird behaviour is not for the transference of sperm or eggs, but just a preliminary part of mating. Strange!
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