03 December 2007

When the going gets tough, Ilyanassa gets buried

Ilyanassa obsoleta is a common native snail of tidal flats along the northeastern coasts of the U.S., but an introduced troublemaker on the west coast.

During our trip to the Chincoteague area in October, I encountered lots of I. obsoleta at low tide when the snails were exposed and visible. It was a perfect opportunity to observe their behaviors and photograph them.

If a snail is stranded outside of water, it quickly begins to bury itself in the sand. Here is one individual I photographed over a period of about 35 minutes.

IlyanassaBurying

When I first noticed how quickly this snail was burying itself, I thought it would completely disappear in a few minutes. But when I returned to the same spot about 30 minutes later, the tip of its spire was still sticking out.

The ability to bury in wet sand is a neat little adaptive trick for an otherwise marine snail to survive the low tide without having to withdraw into deeper water.

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