March 23, 2012
We've discovered a snail never before found in L.A.! A few weeks ago, I was wandering through the North Campus and happened upon a tiny gastropod snailing along the Living Wall! Most snails don't catch my attention as they are usually of the common garden variety, aka Brown Garden snails, Helix aspersa. This particular specimen caught my eye, because unlike the Brown Garden snail, this snail was much smaller and flatter (the shell is only 6.9 mm wide). I grabbed the snail, placed it in a vial and took it to our snail expert, Lindsey Groves.
Brown Garden snail, Helix aspersa
Southern Flatcoil snails photographed in Cathedral City (Image courtesy of Patrick LaFollette, Museum Research Associate) Lindsey is the Museum's Malacology Collections Manager and when I showed him the snail, he got pretty excited. Although some people may find this strange, I did not. In fact, I was excited too. What I did find strange was that Lindsey already had another specimen of the exact same species sitting under his microscope at that very moment!
Malacology Collections Manager, Lindsey Groves It turns out that the snail I found is a Southern Flatcoil snail, Polygyra cereolus. According to Lindsey, this species of snail ranges from southern Florida to South Carolina and across much of the Gulf coastal states to Texas, as well as several areas of northeast Mexico. Over the past few of decades, it has become common in other locations such as Wisconsin, Hawaii, and even a number of countries in the Middle East including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates! These range extensions are attributable to accidental introductions through importation of sod and/or ornamental landscape plants. The specimen that Lindsey was examining under his microscope was recently collected in the Laguna Hills area of Orange County. He is currently working on documentation of this new county record and will also document the snail found on the North Campus, which is now preserved in the Museum's Malacology collection. The snail has also been discovered a bit further afield in Cathedral City, Riverside County.
Top view of Southern Flatcoil snail. Another in a long list of introduced terrestrial mollusc species in our area, 20 to be exact, it is reported that the Southern Flatcoil snail feeds on clover and alfalfa. As such, they have in some instances been reported as agricultural pests, but will likely feed on many other types of vegetation found in parks and gardens. In Florida, they have been observed assembling in large numbers on sides of buildings and walls without apparent regard to sun exposure, which is very unlike many snails. In one building at the University of North Florida, an aggregation of thousands of individuals were found coating the building surface! According to one of Lindsey's colleagues in Florida, "they are like a weed."
Side view of snail. Apparently the characteristic apertural 'tooth' for this genus must have broken off when it was collected.
February 23, 2012
Last week, Jany Alvarez, one of the Museum's Guest Relations staff, was sitting at the bus stop adjacent to the North Campus. While she was waiting for her bus, she saw an interesting sight—a caterpillar crawling along the sidewalk! Thinking that the caterpillar would be better off on a plant than on the cement, she picked the caterpillar up and placed it carefully on a Dudleya plant on the Living Wall. Later that day, another Guest Relations staffer watched the caterpillar pupate! By the time word travelled to me, the pupa looked like this:
Yellow pupa on DudleyaWhen I came into work on Tuesday morning, the pupa had changed color! I took more pictures and went back to my office to identify it.
Close up of pupa. Note the small horn-like structureThe pupa belongs to a butterfly regularly seen in and around Los Angeles, the Cloudless Sulphur, Phoebis sennae. The Cloudless Sulphur belongs to the Pieridae butterfly family, which includes White, Sulphur, and Orange-tip butterflies. The most common butterfly in this family is the Cabbage White, which flies year round in our area and is a pest on vegetables such as cabbage, kale, and broccoli. In contrast the caterpillar of the Cloudless Sulphur feeds on cassia plants (genus Senna) and is often seen in our local deserts where the two California native species in this genus grow naturally. The altered nature of Los Angeles is such that non-native cassias are now common all over our area. They've been planted in various places like your neighbor's backyard, your local park, and even in the North Campus. The bus stop where Jany found the Cloudless Sulphur caterpillar is only 20 feet away from a few feathery cassias, Senna artemisioides, which were recently planted in the North Campus!I guess our premise for developing habitat around the Museum is correct—plant it and they will come!
Male Cloudless Sulphur from our Entomology Collection
May 19, 2011
Jesse asked to see some images of the construction site. Here you go.
Footbridge construction as of a few weeks ago
Site view from the exhibit technicians' office
Living Wall up closeThanks Cordell Corporation for the Living Wall shot!