April 26, 2016
Although we had less than average rainfall this winter, SLIME citizen scientists became iNaturalist superstars and logged 1,225 observations of Southern California's land snails and slugs for our El Niño #SnailBlitz. There are many highlights from the effort, but of particular note is this rare snail. Tight Coil Snail (Pristiloma sp.)
This Tight Coil snail was found by Cedric Lee, on March 20, 2016. He found it in the San Gabriel Mountains near the Pacific Coast Trail. It is likely Pristiloma gabrielinum or Pristiloma chersinella, both species are native to Southern California, but are difficult to tell apart. These snails are TINY: less than half the width of a pencil eraser at around 3 mm in diameter. Pristiloma gabrielinum is considered critically imperiled and Pristiloma chersinella is listed by NatureServ as a vulnerable species. VERY little is known about the biology of either of these snails. Cedric's comment that he found it under the bark of a fallen pine tree adds to the basic understanding of how these snails live. ...and other interesting finds: Tawny Beehive Snail (Euconulus fulvus)
This Tawny Beehive snail was also observed by Cedric Lee, on March 20, 2016 in the San Gabriel Mountains. This photo is the first I've ever seen of its kind alive! Small Pointed Snail (Cochilcella barbara)
This snail was observed by Emily Han, on April 8th and 10th, 2016 in Mount Washington. Previously, only known from nearby San Diego and Santa Barbara counties, this observation is the first record for Los Angeles County! This snail has a Pest B rating by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, which includes the prediction that this snail is highly likely to become established widely throughout the State. Only nine samples of these snails have been identified in California over the last 40 years, making this observation the 10th. Emily found these snails in abundance, which means their population is likely well-established. A Possible Budapest Slug (Tandonia sp.)
I found this slug on March 16, 2016 while doing a #SnailBlitz hunt with Ms. Griffith's 8th grade science class, at Arroyo Seco Museum Science Magnet School in Mount Washington. This slug is a conundrum! Either is it a variant of the more common non-native slug, Milax gagates, or it is of the genus Tandonia, which would be a county and possibly state record. Because internal anatomy and/or DNA analysis are the only ways to determine the identity of this slug, this animal was sacrificed and tested for its barcoding gene (called CO1) and dissected to specifically look at its reproductive anatomy. Results are forthcoming. The Unnamed Slug (Hesperarion hemphilli)
This unnamed slug was observed by Annette Mercer and Brian Brown, on February 20, 2016 in Griffith Park. As mentioned in a previous blog post this species is a Southern California native and is so poorly known it doesn't even have a common name! Snail Behavior 101 And finally, some photos displayed snails galloping (technically called loping)! Citizen scientists @littlecrane13 and Rob Kutner and Sasha Kutner (age 7) observed Cornu aspersum moving with a loping gait, in which the snail makes a dashed line of mucus instead of a continuous one. What is fascinating about this behavior is that snails will lope when moving on dry surfaces like concrete or wood, but not on a smooth surface like glass. Loping and adhesive crawling (when a snail or slug leaves a continuous slime trail) move the snail at the same pace, but loping uses less mucus and possibly saves the snail from getting too dry when moving on a porous surface. Rob and Sasha Kutner observed loping on concrete and @littlecrane13 observed this phenomenon on tile.
These and other observations are not only fascinating, but scientifically important. The photos taken are data points of biological diversity and species distribution. Many are also exquisitely beautiful, showcasing these animals as they are often not seen or appreciated. El Niño #SnailBlitz was a great success, thanks to all the citizen scientists out there. While the #SnailBlitz is now over, the SLIME project continues. So keep the observations coming!