Species of the Month Challenge – the garden snail

Close upThe garden snail Cornu aspersum is a well known member of our wildlife. It was with some surprise that I read a tweet by the South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre (SEWBReC for short). They are featuring the common garden snail as their August #Speciesofthemonth, as they hold fewer than 500 records for this ubiquitous muncher of plants. To put that into perspective, SEWBReC have over 100 records of Hygromia cinctella in their database; a species that was first recorded on our shores in the 1950s!

How can it be that such a stalwart of the British back garden be so under recorded? Like many familiar species, our shelled protagonist falls within the “too common to count” bracket; species that are so widespread and every day that few people feel there is no need to record them.

You might be thinking “Yeah, but it’s just a snail, right? They are everywhere, so why care?” But snails are an important food source for many other species and understanding the distribution of common species can lend insights into the causes of decline or distribution of other species more threatened species. Plus, look what has happened to previously common species such as starling, house sparrow and the snail munching hedgehog.

I must admit I thought this would be an easy challenge; especially given a damp August and this is a common, wet loving species. Surely my notebook would be brimming with records! But in reality I struggled; even familiar haunts seemed to be devoid of that familiar brown shell and as fate would have it August proved to be a month where I had limited time so could only snatch a few minutes searching here and there. I’m rather disappointed with my efforts with a total of just eleven records… Pitiful!

As August came to close I’ve kept an eye open for garden snails and the number of records is creeping up as slowly as the snails in question. This should be a species for which SEWBReC’s database should be full to bursting, so if you’ve not done so already get recording those snails!

 

This post was updated on 29/10/2014

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