Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Liguus Tree Snail

Image: Rafy Rodriguez
Liguus virgineus
You don't have to take a dip in the ocean to be wowed by a beautiful gastropod.

Some of them are right there in the trees!

Image: Claude & Amandine EVANNO
Liguus vittatus
Liguus is a small genus containing five species of tropical snail.

Most are very particular about where they call home. L. flammellus. for example, is restricted to forests in the rocky Mogotes of Pinar del Rio, a province in western Cuba. Three other species have similarly tiny distributions in Cuba and another lives only in Hispaniola.

Image: Miguel Vieira
Florida Tree Snail (Liguus fasciatus)
Then there's the Florida Tree Snail. This is definitely the territorial winner, being found in both Cuba and Hispaniola, as well as southern Florida. That's as widespread as these snails get.

Regardless of their level of success in that regard, Luguus Tree Snails all have a lot in common. For one, they're all gorgeous! Take a gander at those smooth, shiny shells! It looks like someone painstakingly painted them with a tiny paintbrush but those stripes are all-natural, baby!

Image: Phil
Florida Tree Snail as a dollop of sunshine
They're not small, either, reaching some 7 cm (3 in) long.

While most people only recognise five species these days, there used to be a lot more.

Image: Claude & Amandine EVANNO
Varieties of Liguus fasciatus
The thing with the Florida Tree Snail in particular, is that it's incredibly variable. It may be just one species, but that shell can come in a bewildering array of colours and patterns. So many that this single species has been organized into over 100 subspecies.

Liguus Tree Snails certainly call attention to themselves with their appearance, but their lifestyle is quite the opposite. They spend their time hanging out on trees, grazing on moss, algae and lichen.


And they know how to keep the crowd asking for more. Liguus Tree Snails hide from the limelight during the dry season, roughly between November and May. That's when most of them avoid drying out by sealing up their shell with mucus and sleeping for about half a year.

Liguus Tree Snails have high standards. These glamourous snails won't get out of bed for less than a rainy season. Those divas with their outrageous demands!

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