31 March 2007

MAM report

The 9th meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Malacologists was today at the Delaware Museum of Natural History (DMNH) in Wilmington, Delaware. Out of those 9 meetings I have been to (I think 7), this one was probably the longest and the best in terms of the variety and the quality of the talks. We started at 10 in the morning, took a lunch break for 1.5 hours and then had more talks until a little after 4 pm when the last talk ended.

Here are the speakers, in the order they spoke, and not-more-than-two sentence summaries of their talks.

Clement Counts talked about the life and times of the malacologist Melbourne "Mel" Carriker who died last month at age 92. Dr. Carriker had been a regular attendant at MAM meetings.

Marla Coppolino presented the initial findings from her surveys of the land snails of southern Illinois.

Colleen Sinclair's subject was the genetics of the land snail Ventridens ligera on Plummers Island in the Potomac River, while her student Gina Meletakos talked about her project of barcoding the species in the land snail genus Stenotrema.

Lillian Bloch's talk was about the species differentiation in the bivalve genus Transennella.

Gary Rosenberg discussed species naming curves and diversity patterns for marine mollusks.

Gary Rosenberg of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia.

Alan Kohn talked about the systematics of the genus Conus, the most speciose (and probably the most poisonous) genus in the sea. More information is at the Conus Biodiversity website.

Daniel Graf discussed the unionid freshwater mussels of the Congo region in Africa.

When it was my turn, I talked about the smallest land snails. I will post more about that in the future.

Megan Paustian presented an outline of her Ph.D. research project involving the competitive interactions of native and introduced slugs.

Our host Liz Shea talked about the squids, especially Lolliguncula brevis, in Delaware Bay.

Liz Shea, curator of mollusks at the Delaware Museum of Natural History talking about squids.

Finally, Ryan Carnegie presented the results of the field studies he has been doing with oysters and their protozoan parasites. Although it was the end, Ryan's talk seems to have generated more questions and discussion than all the previous talks.

MAM has always been a perfect meeting for graduate students to present their research projects and practice their public speaking skills. This year's meeting was no exception; four of the speakers were graduate students. I thought the audience was very enthusiastic until the very end and every speaker got plenty of questions.

Only two people were (un)lucky enough to have their pictures taken by me. Next year, I will try to take more pictures. I will also try to write down everybody's affiliation as well.

30 March 2007

A contrast of sizes

At MAM tomorrow I will give a short presentation about the smallest land snails, specifically the ones that live in North America. I discussed relevant subjects in 2 posts in the summer of 2005 here and here.

Here are 2 of the pictures I will be showing tomorrow.


One of the smallest land snails in North America is Punctum smithi; its largest adult shells are about 1.2 mm in diameter. The largest native land snail in eastern North America is Neohelix albolabris, the adult shell diameter of which can exceed 30 mm. The picture above shows the half of a N. albolabris shell. Inside it, I placed a P. smithi shell near the lower left corner.

As the shell of a snail gets smaller, its shell gets thinner. This is necessary, because otherwise there wouldn't be any room left inside the shell for the snail. In the picture below you can see that the P. smithi shell is about as high as the N. albolabris shell is thick.


The shells of the newly hatched P. smithi and other equally small species must be even thinner and fragile.

29 March 2007

28 March 2007

Unskirtable evidence for evolution


The caption reads:
The new skirts which have arrived from Paris for the London Spring Season are startingly [startlingly?] short, the hem in many instances being ten inches from the ground. 1. The trailing skirt of 1900. 2. The ankle skirt of 1911. 3. The draped skirt of 1912. 4. The 1913 style with bright colored hose and shoes with big bows.

Here is the big question: how did the ladies keep their trailing skirts clean?

From Penny Illustrated Paper, 15 February 1913, page 31.

27 March 2007

MAM is coming up


Saturday 31 March 2007 10:00 am
Delaware Museum of Natural History
4840 Kennett Pike, Box 3937, Wilmington, DE 19807, U.S.A.
Host: Dr. Liz Shea, Curator of Mollusks

The 9th almost-annual meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Malacologists will be this Saturday 31 March 2007 at the Delaware Museum of Natural History (DMNH) in Wilmington, Delaware. This one-day gathering is designed to facilitate contact among professional, amateur, and student malacologists who are interested in any aspect of molluscan biology. There are no dues, officers, abstracts, or publications. Meeting and parking are free of charge. Participants are encouraged to present and discuss data, compare notes on methods and problems, and catch up with colleagues and friends. Presentations (15 minutes max.) are very informal and cover topics as diverse as current research, trip reports, and collection issues.

For more information or to say you will attend and/or give a talk,
please contact Liz Shea at eshea AT delmnh.org.

See you at MAM.

26 March 2007

A slug hole


This is no ordinary tree hole. What distinguishes this particular tree hole from some other tree holes is that this one frequently contains a slug or two.


I've been monitoring this tree hole for about a year now. There is usually water in it. I think the presence of water is what attracts the slugs to it. The humidity inside the hole must be higher and more constant than it is outside the hole. The hole probably also provides some protection against the slugs' predators, if they have any.

The slugs are philomycid slugs (family Philomycidae) that are native to the eastern U.S. I still haven't figured out the exact species we have in the woods around here.

25 March 2007

Sunday nite’s beer review: Winter’s Bourbon Cask Ale

The spring has sprung and what is on the label of the beer I am drinking? A snowman. Winter’s Bourbon Cask Ale is brewed by Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis, Missouri. The label says it was aged “on bourbon barrel oak and vanilla beans”. It indeed has a somewhat unusual flavor for a beer; I do detect some vanilla-like aroma with a hint of clover, perhaps. And the color is a pleasant dark reddish brown.


The last time I tried an Anheuser-Busch beer 4-5 years ago, some sort of amber brew, I was so disappointed (and annoyed) with the lack of any discernible flavor and the water-like mouth feel of it that I have stayed away from their products since then. But, this one isn’t bad at all.

According to this press release from Anheuser-Busch, this beer has 6% alcohol and was available through February. So I am a month behind.


24 March 2007

Olympus Master 2.0

When I bought my Olympus E-500 in December 2005, it came with Olympus's image manipulation software Olympus Master version 1.41. I tried it for a few months, but wasn't quite happy with it and stopped using it. It was much faster to download pictures from the camera to my computer by simply copying and pasting them. The RAW image software on Olympus Master was also slow and there was no way to compare an image before and after it was adjusted.

An e-mail that came from Olympus yesterday announced the availability of the version 2.0 of Olympus Master. The links on the Olympus website were, however, not operational until this morning when I finally downloaded and installed version 2.0.

The new version appears to be much faster than the older one I had, but I can't make a direct comparison, because now I have also a new and much faster computer. The version 2.0 is compatible with Vista, which is what I have on my new machine and so far I haven't had any problems.

The RAW image software is much improved and easier to use. Unlike the earlier version, one can now adjust "tone curve", "gamma" and correct for distortion introduced by wide angle lenses. It is also possible to crop a RAW image or insert text in it. The earlier version also lacked these 2 functions.

Moreover, one can now view both the original and the adjusted version of an image simultaneously. This will make RAW image processing much easier and more fun.

When working with a RAW image file in Olympus Master 2.0, the left panel shows the original, while the right panel is the adjusted image. In this example, the right panel is the color corrected version of the original on the left. The ability to compare with the original makes it easier and more efficient to adjust the qualities of an image.

23 March 2007

Slugs 'n isopods

Many slug species tend to aggregate when they are resting. That behavior is called huddling. Here is a note I had in issue No. 15 of Tentacle that was about a specimen of the native U.S. slug Philomycus carolinianus that was huddling with an introduced Arion subfuscus.

I have many rocks in my backyard and almost every large rock has one or more resident slugs underneath it. Even more numerous in the same places are isopods, which appear to be more sensitive to dehydration than are slugs. On many occasions I have seen isopods clustered around resting slugs. This morning I was able to photograph 2 such clusters under one rock.


The smaller slug was probably a juvenile Limax maximus, while the larger one in the picture below is probably an Arion subfuscus.


If we define huddling loosely as the clustering of animals for mutual protection against environmental extremes, then what we have here would be an example of interphylar huddling. However, the isopods are probably benefiting much more from huddling against a slug than is the slug from having isopods lined up against its body.

22 March 2007

Is this what progressive Canadians read (and believe)?

The rather peculiar publication The Canadian, which labels itself "Canada's new socially progressive and cross-cultural national newspaper", is reporting that a Puerto Rican woman named Milagros Garcia is "an alleged Alien and Human inter-species* hybrid". And the "scientific evidence" for this claim is that the woman's "blood DNA" (is that different than the DNA from other parts of her body?) was said to be very rare by an unidentified "Doctor".

Let me see if I understand this correctly. Are they saying that extraterrestrial aliens have independently evolved a DNA-based genetic information storage system that can successfully hybridize with human DNA? That would be truly amazing in light of the fact that on earth we can't hybridize with chimps, our evolutionarily closest relatives.

(Original link via the Anomalist.)

*Hybrids can only be between different species, so "inter-species hybrid" is a redundant phrase.

21 March 2007

Land snails of Turkey: Xerocrassa cretica

The land snail Xerocrassa cretica (family Hygromiidae) has already appeared on this blog twice: first, the live snail and then its penis. We had collected that snail along with several empty shells during our 2004 survey of the Dilek Peninsula in western Turkey. I spent several months studying, dissecting, photographing and writing about them and the resulting manuscript just came out in No. 15 of Triton, the Journal of the Israel Malacological Society. You can download the pdf copy of the paper from here.


Most hygromiid snails are difficult to identify because their shells are variable while lacking easily noticeable characteristics. Usually, live specimens are necessary to dissect, although, as you will read in my paper, even their genitalia tend to be variable, which further complicates their identification and taxonomy.

20 March 2007

How would you fit 21 people in this truck?


This picture of passengers and their vehicle is from Lilo Linke's Allah Dethroned (published 1937). The book chronicles her solo travel in eastern and southern Turkey in the mid-1930s. I will write more about it in another post.

19 March 2007

Cecilioides acicula: a tiny invader from Europe

The land snail Cecilioides acicula (Family Ferussaciidae), a native of Europe, has been introduced to other parts of the world, including the U.S. In November 2006, I found this snail in Shenandoah County, Virginia. A short note reporting this finding has just been published in No. 15 of Triton, the Journal of the Israel Malacological Society. You can download the pdf copy of the paper from here.

Cecilioides acicula from Shenandoah County, Virginia, U.S.A. The adult shell was 3.1 mm long.

Leeches and frogs

The medidicinal leech (Hirudo medicinalis) feeds on vertebrate, mainly mammalian, blood. A short paper from 2002 by Merilä & Sterner1, provides a compilation of published reports of medicinal leeches feeding on the blood of amphibians (frogs and newts).

The authors also present their own observations from the Swedish island of Gotland where they found many moor frogs (Rana arvalis) parasitized or killed by medicinal leeches. They note that frogs can't seem to be able to remove the leeches attached to their bodies and the parasitized frogs invariably die from blood loss.

Hirudo medicinalis is native to Europe, but its populations have been declining. Many amphibian species are also threatened with extinction.

The discussions in the paper outline what seems to be a complex network of several interconnected phenomena operating simultaneously in Europe and possibly affecting the longterm well-being of both the leech and the frog populations. According to the authors, the decline in the numbers of free-ranging cattle in Europe may have caused leeches to rely more on frogs. But frog blood, having an energetic value lower than that of mammalian blood, may have decreased the growth and fecundity of leeches. At the same time, increased predation by leeches may have been affecting the frog populations negatively.

If the leeches indeed switched from preying on mammals to frogs recently, I suppose the historical cause was first the decline of the numbers of large native mammals in the wild, followed by the decline of the numbers of large domesticated mammals.

1Merilä, J. & Sterner, M. 2002: Medicinal leeches (Hirudo medicinalis) attacking and killing adult amphibians. Ann. Zool. Fennici 39: 343–346. pdf

17 March 2007

Mmmm...snail slime with brown sugar

As a service to our readers, we occasionally publish here recipes for concoctions made from snails. This one, from the 8 September 1866 issue of the British newspaper the Penny Illustrated, was said to be good for "consumption".


I endorse this recipe because it doesn't require that the snails be killed.

You can search the entire contents of the Penny Illustrated here.

The previous recipe was for a snail-based cough syrup.

Now, that was an anomaly

Last Thursday, a web site called The Anomalist put up a link to my post about the Lake Van monster from the day before. As a result, I had a spike in the visitor counts on Thursday.


The counts are now back to their nonanomalous routine. I think I need to start posting more of the snail's monster tales.

16 March 2007

Naming names on the Internet

Four codes of nomenclature (for animals, plants, cultivated plants and bacteria) set the rules for the naming of new species, genera, etc. One rule common to all 4 codes is that a new name must be published. The International Code of Zoological Nomenclature allows for publication on CD instead of print. But none of the current codes allows publication of new names on the Internet alone. This will, however, be inevitable in the near future.

A commentary1 in this week’s Nature (15 March 2007) is about the digital future of taxonomy.

Knapp et al.1 give at least 3 reasons why digital publishing is better than traditional printing: (1) print-dependence for the naming of new organisms slows taxonomy down; (2) paper archiving is itself no guarantee of permanence; (3) the decreasing purchasing and storage capacities of libraries worldwide means that print media face an uncertain future.

I agree with them. We have been waiting since last summer for the publication of a new snail species form Turkey that we are describing. When it finally comes out, the journal will be distributed, hopefully, to many libraries. However, libraries, especially the kinds that receive the esoteric and obscure journals, will continue to exist as long as tax payers are willing to support them. But, who can guarantee that?

Digital publishing is here and, whether we like it or not, in the near future it should and will be permissible to publish new names solely on the Internet. Resistance is futile.

Visit ICZN's ZooBank that provides access to 1.5 million scientific names of animals.

1Sandra Knapp, Andrew Polaszek & Mark Watson. Nature 446:261-262 (15 March 2007). doi:10.1038/446261a

15 March 2007

Christmas Dip

Around Christmas last year I noticed that the number of visitors I was getting to Snail's Tails had gone down. After Christmas, the visitor counts recovered and have been slowly going up ever since. The graph from StatCounter confirms this trend with the red arrow marking the Christmas Dip in the numbers of visitors.


Why did the number of visitors go down during Christmas? I suspect this had something to do with the fact that most of my visitors come from the U.S. (Example stats here.) The only reason for the Christmas Dip I can think of is that during that time people must have been too busy with Christmas-related activities to read blogs. There was no comparable dip around Thanksgiving, however.

Did other bloggers experience a similar drop in visitors during Christmas?

Boxcar graffiti XLIX & L



14 March 2007

A monster in Lake Van?

It seems that most large lakes on earth have a resident monster and Lake Van in eastern Turkey is no exception. The Lake Van monster first surfaced in the mid-1990s and has since been seen by many and captured, as is always the case, only on poor quality photographs. (Here is a 1997 CNN article with a video footage.)


Yesterday, the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet reported yet another sighting of the Lake Van monster, this time by the crew of a ferry boat running between Van on the east coast of the lake and Tatvan on the west coast. The crew spotted what was, according to their description, a very fast object approaching them from 2 (nautical) miles away and started wondering what a speed boat would be doing in the lake "at this hour" (the newspaper, however, didn’t bother to mention the time of the sighting). Then, the crew decided that it was the monster that they were seeing and described the "creature" as resembling a "very large whale". They attempted to photograph it with their cell phone cameras, but because of the “perpendicular rays of sunlight”, couldn’t obtain sharp images. There is no mention of if any passengers on the boat also saw the monster.

According to an article in the 27 November, 2006 edition of Milliyet, another Turkish newspaper, the "real monster" in the lake is pollution. Milliyet reports that the lake has been extensively polluted with apparently untreated sewage from the coastal towns and industrial wastes from the many nearby manufacturing plants.

The residents of Van have nothing to fear; if there is a monster in Lake Van it will soon drown in their wastes.

The statue of the Lake Van monster from Wikipedia.

13 March 2007

Two old buddies with funny names


This picture is from the February 1952 issue of Resimli Tarih Mecmuası, a now defunct Turkish history magazine. The men identified as "Ruzvelt" and "Çörçil" are, of course, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. Back then, most Turkish newspapers and magazines printed foreign names as they would be pronounced in Turkish by someone who didn't speak the language the names were in.

The picture below, from the December 1970 issue of another history magazine, Hayat Tarih Mecmuası, shows that by then the practice had already been abandoned.


Recently, I sent the first picture to several close relatives and friends for comments. One person in the group supported the practice of "phonetic" spelling of foreign names, while several others opposed to it. One problem pointed out by the supporter, that not every language uses the same alphabet, may justify modified spellings of some foreign names. For example, the Turkish letter "ı" is almost always replaced with an ordinary dotted "i" in English publications even though their sounds are different in Turkish.

Along these lines, it is worth noting that if you go to the homepage of the Turkish Embassy and alternate between the Turkish and English versions (link near upper right-hand corner), you will see that on the Turkish pages the city of their location is spelled as Vaşington—just like they would say it in Turkish, while on the English pages, it is Washington.

12 March 2007

On the closure of the umbilicus of Neohelix albolabris

During my survey of the land snails of the Monocacy Natural Resources Area, I once collected a large live snail that was a subadult of either Neohelix albolabris or Mesodon thyroidus. The adults are easy to tell apart, because N. albolabris has a completely sealed umbilicus, while that of M. thyroidus is only partially closed by the edge of its lip. The juvenile shells of both species have open umbilici, but they can be distinguished, with some difficulty, from their microsculpture. Rather than rely on its microsculpture to identify this snail, however, I decided to raise it to adulthood.

I collected the snail on the 19th of April. The 1st scan1 was obtained on 10 July. The shell diameter was 25.0 mm. The umbilicus was partially covered by the edge of the lip. The lip was thin and fragile as you tell from its condition at the time of the scan.


Only 4 days later, the snail’s shell had grown to a diameter of 26.3 mm and its umbilicus was now closed by a translucent callus with only a narrow slit left open. The umbilicus starts to close starting at the edge of the lip and the callus grows towards the far end of the umbilicus. So the slit, although not quite visible in the photo, was along the edge of the umbilicus farthest from the lip. The lip was still very fragile and parts of it broke off when I was handling the snail.


Finally, on 27 July, when the final2 shell diameter was 27.2 mm, the umbilicus was completely sealed and the lip was reflected and hardened. It was a N. albolabris.


1Back then I didn’t have a digital camera; these pictures were obtained with a flatbed scanner.
2Neohelix albolabris has determinate growth.

10 March 2007

A beautiful bunch of ripe bananas


Of the two 33 rpm records1 that I still have, one is Harry Belafonte’s Calypso from 1956. Mine is, however, a reissue from much later; I bought it for $5.49 in 1984. If I am remembering it correctly, I was out on a date with my wife-to-be and we had stopped at a record store where Belafonte’s album was among the many others on sale. I had always liked Belafonte’s songs and at that time I had a roommate who had a record player. Now, I don’t have the means to play records anymore and Belafonte's record just sits there as a memento of bygone days.

Speaking of bygone days, the BBC News has an interview with Belafonte who speaks about his lifelong fight against racism. It’s too bad that at the end, he leaves the impression of an angry and bitter 80-year old man.

1The other is a Steve Reich album the story of which I told here.

09 March 2007

Wikipedia links to Snail’s Tales

I’ve noticed that at least 2 Wikipedia entries now have links to my posts. One link is from the Wikipedia's entry on the Turkish author Halide Edip Adıvar links to my review of her autobiography. The 2nd link is from the entry about the Dictionary of International Biography to my post on the bogus "International Scientist of the Year" award given out by the International Biographical Centre in Cambridge, England. In both cases, the links are at the ends of the Wikipedia articles under the heading "External Links".

The existence of these links came to my attention when StatCounter reports indicated that some recent visitors had originated from the Wikipedia URLs.

The snails I missed


Among the creatures I saw in the woods one nite last September was this spider on a wet, moss-covered wall. I hadn't looked at the picture carefully until a couple of days ago when I was actually considering deleting it. But then, something in the full-blown picture on the monitor caught my eye: a tiny snail next to the spider's leg. Then I spotted another snail on the other side of the spider's leg and a 3rd one elsewhere in the picture.


I don't remember how big the spider was, but I guess it was probably about 1 to 2 cm across. So, the snails must have been tiny. The one above the spider's leg may have been a juvenile Euconulus, while the others may have been Punctum minutissimum or even younger Euconulus.

Now that I know these snails come out on wet and warm nites to crawl on that wall, I will be going back there to specifically look for them.

08 March 2007

Today's goooood word: typosquatting

The 3 March issue of the New Scientist defines typosquatting as the "practice of registering web addresses that differ from popular destinations by single-letter errors". Such errors are usually called typos (short for "typographical errors"). The purpose of a typosquatter is to present the unsuspecting web searchers with an alternate web page with links to commercial (often pornographic) sites and advertisements. Every time someone clicks a link on a typosquat, the typosquatter makes money.

The examples of typosquat addresses offered by the New Scientist include those that are variations of www.google.com. Apparently, typosquatters have bought the domain names spelled with 4, 9 and 20 "o"s (goooogle, etc.). Leaving aside the question of how anyone could misspell Google with 20 "o"s, I've, out of curiosity, discovered that the version with 11 "o"s also leads to a typosquat with porno links (no, I didn't click on any). On the other hand, Google owns at least the version with 5 "o"s, but not the 12-o version contrary to what the article says.

At one point, whilst testing different spellings of Google, I inadvertently typed www.goooooooo.com and ended up on what appears to be a Japanese typosquat. And then, I found several other sites with similar URLs differing only in the number of "o"s. They may all be hoping to catch the surfers looking for www.go.com, the homepage of the Walt Disney Internet Group.

07 March 2007

Latest country statistics for Snail's Tales

This was based on the information from StatCounter around 12:56 pm today. The first column is the actual number of visitors. It looks like today we are serving mostly the U.S., Canada and Europe. I don't usually get that many visitors from Turkey.

44 50%United States
77.95%United Kingdom

Romans, Rums, Greeks, Turks and German Emperors

Yesterday I exchanged several e-mails with my German friend Francisco Welter-Schultes concerning a snail that was once (and only once) recorded from Turkey. While attempting to figure out where exactly in Turkey this snail may have been found, we discussed some old German papers and touched upon a multitude of other subjects, including Kleinarmenien ("Little Armenia"), the Turkish town of Amasya and Rums.

To the Turks of Turkey a Greek is a Rum (pronounced "room"). Although most Turks wouldn't know it, Rum actually means "Roman"1. The reason why the origin of Rum may be obscure to them is probably because it has been in use for many, many centuries.

Sevan Nişanyan, in his etymological dictionary of Turkish2, gives the origin of Rum as the Greek romiós. A much older etymology shedding more light on the origin of the word was given by a Thomas Smith in the following 1683 article from the Royal Society's Philosophical Transactions.


In his 1st sentence Smith is referring to Constantinople and "the Empire" is the Byzantine Empire. "The continent of Thrace", on the other hand, is the name given to the northwest corner of the present day Turkey (Trakya in Turkish) and the adjacent area in Greece across the border. The Ottomans referred to that area also as Rumeli ("the Land of the Rums"). In a nutshell, and if my understanding is correct, what Smith was saying is that after the Roman Empire collapsed, the Byzantine Empire centered around Constantinople was seen as the former's continuation. Hence, the Greeks became "Romans".


Smith's spelling of Rum as Vrum may have been due to his misunderstanding of its pronunciation. His Vrumler Padisha must have been Rumların Padişahı or "the Padişah of the Rums". Padişah (pronounced padishah and originally from Persian), the equivalent of "emperor", was the title of the Ottoman sultans.

1The present day Turkish word roman (originally from the French romance) means "novel"; the word for a Roman is Romalı ("a person of Rome"), while a Rumen is a Romanian. But a Romanian could also be called a Romanyalı. Finally, the Turks call Greece Yunanistan. So, a Greek is also a Yunan(lı). Yes, it could get complicated.
2 Sevan Nişanyan. 2003. Sözlerin Soyağacı.

06 March 2007

Fridge magnets & the things they are holding up

This is a meme Snail at A Snail's Eye View started. (Oh, so this is how memes are born.) The original title was "Fridge magnets", but it is inevitable that the discussion will be as much about the magnets as about the things they are fastening to the refrigerator door.


Ours being a house with 2 cats, there are several cat related magnets and clippings. The cartoon held up by the snowman magnet is about cats, while the card behind the sleeping cat magnet is a reminder for a dental appointment I have in April. The sleeping cat magnet is from our vet. The green magnet at the top has the phone number for the National Capital Poison Center.

And then we have the menus from 3 of our favorite restaurants. The card that reflected the light from the flash, and which is obviously too small to contain a menu, is from Mykonos Grill, a good Greek restaurant in Rockville, Maryland. Caspian House of Kabob is a local Persian restaurant, while the Lemon Tree under the Coca Cola magnet is a relatively new Turkish restaurant in Twinbrook, Maryland.

And the little brown thing headed towards the plate of some yummy Greek food? Why, that is my very own homemade snail magnet!

05 March 2007

Saturday nite's uninvited guest


It was late Saturday nite, I was in the basement struggling to understand an old German article about some Turkish snails. Out of the blue, or perhaps, out of the desk lamp this tiny beetle fell on the paper. I quickly imprisoned it under the lid of a petri dish. Carrying it carefully, I forced my way thru the heaps of fungi and piles of decaying vegetation to my photography table for a shooting session.

tinybeetle3The beetle was just about 2 mm long. Later I posted 2 of the photos at BugGuide. By early Sunday morning, it had already been identified as a silken fungus beetle (order Coleoptera, family Cryptophagidae). According to Borror & DeLong (An Introduction to the Study of Insects, 3rd. ed.), they feed on fungi and decaying vegetation. Perhaps the basement needs a good spring cleaning.

03 March 2007

The intire account of fome incidents from 257 years ago


2 questions:

1. Was a pot-house an outdoor toilet?

2. If the fishermen felt the tremor, does that mean there was a tsunami?

The item was published in 1750 in the Royal Society's Philosophical Transactions.

02 March 2007

Beebe's slug

Naturalist, explorer, author William Beebe's account1 of a slug he encountered while studying pheasants in the Himalayas in 1910:

The great mollusk crept along the damp bark, leaving a broad shining wake of mucus, then tacked slowly and made its way back. In the meantime various creatures, several flies and spiders and two wood-roaches, had sought to cross or alight on the sticky trail and had been caught. Down upon them bore the giant slug and, inevitable as fate, reached and crushed them, sucking down the unfortunates beneath its leaden sides, its four, eyed tentacles playing horribly all the while.

Beebe took the slug. Cockerell described it as Anadenus beebei in 1913. But in 2001, Andrzej Wiktor determined that name to be a junior synonym of a much older one, Anadenus altivagus, that Theobald had given to the same species in 1862.

1From Beebe's book Pheasant Jungles (1927), cited in Carol Grant Gould, The Remarkable Life of William Beebe (2004).

01 March 2007

Bulletin of the Brookville Society of Natural History

The journal you've been dying to read is finally on the Internet! HTML versions of the articles from the only 3 issues of the Bulletin of BSNH that were published between 1885 and 1888, along with historical information about the society are available at the web page of the Geology Library of the Indiana University.

Bulletin No. 1 featured an article by Moore and Butler titled Land and fresh water mollusca observed in Franklin County, Indiana. There are some interesting records of snails and slugs, if we can trust the identifications. But note that many of the names they used have since been replaced by others; you really need to sit down with your Pilsbry to figure out what species they were referring to.

I got curious and compared some of their records with the maps in Hubricht1. I noticed that Hubricht didn't show records in Franklin County for Deroceras laeve (=Limax campestris), Strobilops labyrinthica (=Strobila labyrinthica), Carychium exiguum, Vallonia pulchella, Philomycus caroliniensis (=Tebennophorus carolinensis), Gastrocopta armifera (=Pupa armifera), G. contracta and G. corticaria that Moore and Butler recorded. However, Franklin County is within the general range of those species (according to Hubricht's maps), so it is not surprising that they had found them there. But, 2 of the other species they recorded, Triodopsis fallax and Gastrocopta rupicola, fall considerably outside of their ranges in Hubrict. The former is a more eastern species, while the latter is confined to Florida, northern coasts of the Gulf of Mexico and the coasts of the Carolinas.

On the one hand, such old reports could help determine the historical ranges of snail species, but on the other hand, the lack of voucher specimens, good drawings or descriptions make them, especially when the authors were relatively unknown in the field, unreliable.

1Hubricht, L. 1985. The distributions of the native land mollusks of eastern United States. Fieldiana #24.