Friday, 27 May 2011

Violet Sea Snail

Image source
I'm very intrigued by these aquatic gastropods, I'm so accustomed to good, ol' garden snails that these underwater varieties are extremely fascinating to me. The fact that so many of them seem to be carnivorous just about turns my world upside down! I suppose there's far more slow moving prey for a slug or snail underwater than there is on land. As it turns out, the Violet Sea Snail turns my world upside down more than most, because it's upside down and, as it happens, only just barely underwater.

The fact of the matter is that the Violet Sea Snail floats upside down at the water's surface. One attribute that helps them do this is their thin, rather fragile shell, which obviously takes some weight off their one massive foot... except it doesn't because their foot faces up and their shell faces down. Does that mean their lightweight shell takes the weight off their self same shell? Hmmm... But... hmmm... I could definitely go on, but I'll move on instead. Good thing too, because we absolutely MUST get to why this fabulous creature is also known as the Purple Bubble Raft Snail.

A light shell simply isn't enough to achieve buoyancy for this little snail, so what they do is make a weird raft out of bubbles, made all the weirder by the fact that they are under the raft and not on it, but let's not get into all that again. It seems that they whip up some kind of tiny storm which produces a load of bubbles. These are caught up in mucus secreted from their foot and it all hardens to some extent to become reasonably tough (I assume) but flexible. Actually, it seems like their foot is incredibly long and extends all the way along their raft! I would really love to know more about what these bubbles are like, how tough the whole thing is, how often they have to be made, exactly how it's all done and a load more. It's such a unique talent that I have absolutely nothing to go on at all.

Image source
If you looked at that photo (this one) I should say that the shell of this snail is only about 4 cm long. It seems to stuff a lot of flesh in there! Despite their small size they are still predators, and not of things that are even smaller... actually, they sort of are smaller. The thing is, they eat other floating creatures such our very own Blue Button, By-the-wind Sailor and even the dreaded Portuguese Man o' War, all of which are organisms composed of lots of tiny co-operative animals (or is it vice versa?). While they have a long foot at one end, they also have a long snout on the other. Their mouth is placed at the end of this flexible hosepipe which I guess helps them attack prey without having to use precision raft navigation.

When it comes to reproduction the male creates a little package with his precious cargo for the female to pick up. She doesn't lay eggs, keeping her young until they are larvae and capable of at least not sinking. They will all be male but she won't worry too much since she will have been a male when she was younger, too; Violet Sea Snails are all male before becoming female when they're older. Living life to the full, I guess.

Well, I hope you will agree that this is a really remarkable snail, fantastic stuff! I must admit, I still have some questions about that raft, it's utterly unlike anything I've ever seen before. If anyone has some further information on it I would be very grateful. Till next time!



TexWisGirl said...

this made me laugh. you have more questions than answers on this one! :)

Joseph JG said...

Haha, I know! I would dearly like to see some more details on this oddity.

Emma Springfield said...

It may be odd but it is certainly pretty.

Joseph JG said...

Oh, yes. No argument there!

JSK said...

This is a fascinating and beautiful creature - not monstrosity at all.:-)

Joseph JG said...

I reckon I can agree with that, but it's nice to have a few nice things around too I think! Also there's the small matter of the mucus bubble raft... that's definitely pretty nasty!

Anonymous said...

I like cows. It is not a cow.

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