By EcoShutterBug

Snails' place

This is an abstract image of the shell whorl of a native New Zealand snail from an endemic family called Powelliphanta. Ecological and genetic isolation for 80 million years has led to the evolution of several species, and a real slow life cycle: they can live for at least 20 years, maybe 40; take 5+ years to reach sexual maturity; and each year thereafter they lay 5–10 bean-sized eggs with a pink calcium shell … a bit like small bird’s eggs. This snail’s pace of life makes them very vulnerable to predation by rats, mice, hedgehogs, pigs, possums etc. that were introduced to New Zealand in the last two centuries. Many of the native snail species are threatened.

‘Powelliphanta’ snails are carnivorous and mainly gobble earthworms and slugs. They have a ‘tongue’, called a radula, with rows of teeth – think cheese grater - which they rake it over their prey to scrape bits of flesh into bite sized bits.  Their sex life is amazing, but Blip’s exhortation to "be excellent" precludes too many details here – certainly gender realignment is never an issue because they are hermaphrodites. It gets worse – at least one of the middle-sized Rhytida species ingests its prey through its anus … Enough already? At least now you have confirmation that New Zealanders really do things backwards, as well as upside down.

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