25 April 2008

We apologize for the incidental loss of life

Down where the invertebrates live, empty snail shells are popular places for nesting, hiding, egg-laying and even perhaps for just hanging out. In this post, I wrote about my observation of a thrips hiding in a snail shell.

I often find dead bees and flies in sealed bags of snail shells, sometimes months or years after they were collected. These are most likely the insects that hatched from eggs or cocoons that had been inside one of the shells. Because eggs and cocoons are usually located deep inside a shell, the collector may not always notice them, especially if the shell is opaque.

A few days ago, while looking at some bags of shells I had collected with Tim Pearce during a field trip we had in Virginia in November 2006, I saw this dead moth in one of the bags.


I don't quite know why, but I always feel guilty when I find a dead insect in a bag of shells. Ironically, if I had intended to collect this moth, I would have felt less remorseful. In this case, however, all I wanted was the empty shells. My unintentional interference with the life cycle of this creature makes me regret that I collected the particular shell which it had selected as a safe haven for itself.



O. B. Sirius said...

Try not to think about all the really small lifeforms (bacteria for example) that have also died with each sample. Heck, with each step you take!


Well, yes, it's just a momentary feeling. I don't sit down with closed windows & brood over things like that.

Dave Coulter said...

That is a drag...

xoggoth said...

"My unintentional interference with the life cycle of this creature made me regret..."

Dear me Mr O, you wil soon be as barking as me. I cemented a number of loose slabs round my pond today, it should have been an hour's job but took twice as long due to careful relocation of all the woodlice, slugs and centipedes underneath and of course I then had to apologise to each of them personally for the inconvenience.