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Stripes

February 18, 2009

in Flora & fauna

As I garden in a fertile and damp part of the country, I have become quite blasé about snails. But this one is an absolute beauty.

What really fascinated me is that the only place in the garden I seem to find striped snails is on the striped plant. The fantasist in me likes to imagine that these snails have some kind of self-awareness and an artistic streak. The scientist in me argues that striped snails living on striped plants don’t get eaten by birds, whereas plain snails would get noticed. Although I would argue that the spiral stripes would still show up on the straight stripes of the Phormium plant. Maybe birds are not so clever after all.

I do enjoy finding ways to photograph the Phormium tenax. This cultivar has the most beautiful colouration with bands of cream, pink and grey-green. Having the snail pose as foreground interest gave me the opportunity to use a very shallow depth of field, so the receding stripes gently blur and fade as they move out of the image.

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Edit: These snails are having their moment in the sun. As mentioned on the BBC website, the Open University is about to start an evolutionary study on banded snails and is asking for public participation. Their site,  Evolution Megalab,  has full information on how, why and where the banded snails vary, and how to contribute to the study. Count me in! Unfortunately I don’t know which species this specimen was,  Cephaea nemoralis or Cephaea hortensis, because I didn’t check whether the shell has a white or brown lip. But already I have learnt that the stripes tend to be darker in cooler regions to help warm the snails up, and that my snail has the background colour best suited for grass instead of dark leaves.

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