14 February 2006

High above the Aegean


In a previous post I had a picture of the delta of the river Büyük Menderes, the ancient Meander River, taken from Mount Mycale on Dilek Peninsula in western Turkey. In response to a reader's inquiry, I am posting more pictures of the area.

Mount Mycale (Dilek Tepe) is the highest peak on Dilek Peninsula reaching about 1230 m. We climbed it on 1 July 2004 during our land snail survey of the peninsula. Four of us (Francisco Welter-Schultes, Tim Pearce, Zeki Yildirim and I) started the climb together, but along the way we got separated; it's not a safe practice, but it happens with us frequently when people start making unscheduled stops to look for snails.

Towards the end of the climb I was with Francisco when we reached a relatively flat area and stopped to collect snails. I looked under some rocks and found one species we were looking for: Gallandina annularis. I yelled at Francisco to let him know, but he didn’t respond. Then I realized that he had left and that I had been all alone. I was just a few meters from a deep chasm separating me from 2 almost vertical cliffs. I remember having a peculiar sensation not only from being alone in an unfamiliar wild place right at the edge of a cliff (I have a fear of heights, actually), but also from viewing such an awesome sight and realizing that I would probably never see it again. That's when I took out my camera and snapped the picture above.


After I grabbed my bag and started off for the peak, I saw Francisco and Tim way ahead of me. If you look carefully you may notice them (arrows) in the picture above. Soon we all got together again, including Zeki, who was the slowest among us because of a knee surgery he had had a few months earlier. The peak of Mycale was about 60 m above us. We had done enough collecting and the sun was setting, so we decided to descend rather than climb further up. We were at 1170 m when I took this picture of Francisco with the delta of the river Büyük Menderes below him.


Gallandina annularis, in the family Vitrinidae, is limited in its distribution to such high altitudes. Most members of the Vitrinidae are known as semislugs, because they have a reduced shell into which they cannot withdraw completely (G. annularis can, however, withdraw completely into its shell). The vitrinids are closely related to some full slug families, including the Limacidae. The interactions of semislugs with slugs provide important clues to the evolutionary mechanisms responsible for the origin of slugs from snails. As I already mentioned in another post, Berhard Hausdorf1 has proposed that the European vitrinids are limited to cold mountain habitats, because they are displaced from lower and warmer habitats by the more successful slugs, their distant relatives.

Shells of Gallandina annularis. The ruler is in millimeters.

1. Hausdorf, B. 2001. Macroevolution in progress: competition between semislugs and slugs resulting in ecological displacement and ecological release. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 74:387-395.


simon said...

Dilek Tepe looks a lot more vertical than I had imagined! It certainly looks like the sort of place you don't want to get left on your own, whether you're a snail with reduced shell or a snail surveyor for that matter!
Is there a path up there?


No, there is no path up to Dilek Tepe. There is an unpaved road just wide enough for one car that goes around the bases of the hills. From that road to the peak is a steep slope. But you walk up the slope, there is no need for rock climbing.