Impurest's Guide to Animals #45 - Plough Snail

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Edited By ImpurestCheese

Yuletide cheer for all!! With that time of year approaching at more then a snail’s pace I wish all who read this seasons greeting. Last week the brutish Emui Moustache Toad showed off his spines in a bid for domination. This week we surf and sail towards the new year with this week’s creature. Hope you guys enjoy.

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Issue #45 Plough Snail

[1]
[1]

Kingdom – Animalia

Phylum – Mollusca

Class – Gastropoda

[Clade]* – Neogastropoda

Family – Nassariidae

Genus – Bullia

Species –diitalis

* At the moment the Class Gastropoda is going through a taxanomic shake-up with no easily defined Orders. As such the Plough Snail could be in the following order; Caenogastropoda, Hypsogastropoda and Neogastropoda

Related Species - There are a wide range of scavenging shoreline snail in the family in the genus Bullia (1)

Range - The Plough Snail can be found along the southern shoreline of South Africa

Masters of the Surf

The Plough Snail has a single shell, of around 60mm long, with five whorls that spiral towards a single point. The shell is usually cream but there are colour variations ranging from yellow to purple. The foot of the snail is a thick white and spreads around the entire shell. When threatened the snail retracts its foot into the shell and closes the operculum, the calcareous trapdoor that protects the snail’s soft parts, and relies on the serrated edge to passively deter predators from trying to break open the shell (2).

[2]
[2]

The Plough Snail feeds on carrion washed up on the beach at high tide but faces the problem of desiccation from the sun and predation from sea birds. To reach the food the Plough Snail extends its foot and lets the tide push the snail up the beach. As the tide retreats the snail buries itself in the mud to prevent being washed away by the waves. As soon as the water level drops the snail re-emerges and heads up the beach to the high tide mark. While the snail is unfussy on what they feed on they do have a preference for stranded Portuguese Man o War (Physalia physalis) with hundreds of Plough Snails converging on a single washed up colony (3).

[3]
[3]

As the tide comes back in the snails move back towards the ocean, leaving a distinct furrow behind them before burrowing back into the sand to re-hydrate itself. Like the majority of marine gastropods the Plough Snail has distinct genders with the females laying a solid mass of eggs below the low tide mark.

Five Fun Plough Snail Facts

Be careful when picking up a Plough Snail, the species doesn’t distinguish between living and dead flesh and has a nasty bite (I know from past experience)

Plough Snails are so successful that on some beaches they have out competed other coastal invertebrate scavengers (4)

Plough Snails feed by liquefying flesh and sucking it down a proboscis towards the radula

Distant relations the Moon Snails have taken their role as coastal scavengers to a new level. One species uses its foot to smother still living prey before drilling into the carapace and liquefying its insides.

Plough Snail shells make the perfect home for Hermit Crabs

Bibliography

1 - www.arkive.org

2 - Antonio G. Checa and Antonio P. Jiménez-Jiménez, Constructional Morphology, Origin, and Evolution of the Gastropod Operculum; Paleobiology, Vol. 24, No. 1, Winter, 1998

3 - Matthews, L. (2007). The coastal guide of South Africa. Coastal guide. Johannesburg: Jacana Media. p. 131

4 - BRANCH, G.M., GRIFFITHS, C.L., BRANCH, M.L. & BECKLEY, L.E. (2002). Two Oceans: A Guide to the Marine Life of Southern Africa. Cape Town & Johannesburg: David Philip Publishers. p. 360

Picture References

1 - http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4d/Bullia_digitalis_-_Plough_snail_0347.jpg

2 - http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f8/Bullia_digitalis_-_Plough_snail_003.jpg

3 - http://cache2.asset-cache.net/gc/116781568-plough-snails-eating-a-blue-bottle-cove-rock-gettyimages.jpg?v=1&c=IWSAsset&k=2&d=zNbeuEd5xDvVwiMX%2FmAuaPxZuP3OHRWY721hCUR5QWs%3D

And as the tide comes in the Plough Snail surfs into 2015 alongside Impurest’s Guide to Animals . Next issue features the much requested Pistol Shrimp who starts the new year off with a bang, but until then critic, comment and check out Impurest’s Bestiary of Past Issues

Seasons Greetings

Impurest Cheese

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#2  Edited By cbishop

@impurestcheese: Moon Snails sound like the serial killers of the snail world. "I'm going to kill you, and I'm going to take my time...because, y'know...I'm a snail."

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Hurricane impurest delivers again :p

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#4  Edited By ImpurestCheese

@foolsgold: Yep she does

@cbishop: Of course did you think all snails were slow moving friendly lettuce munchers

This one uses a harpoon to kill fish...and occasionally people
This one uses a harpoon to kill fish...and occasionally people

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#5  Edited By scattered316

For a tiny creature that primarily eats washed up dead things, it's surprisingly pretty.

And, by golly, the Moon Snail, I've heard of hunting snails but this is the only snail that actually sounds violent from the description.

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@cbishop: Of course did you think all snails were slow moving friendly lettuce munchers

Yes. Yes I did think that. ;)

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@scattered316: Yep they are indeed quite violent but then so are the Cone Snails

@cbishop: Then you thought wrong :-)

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@impurestcheese: I'd personally classify the Cone as 'badass' instead of 'violent'. But ultimately toxic harpoon cannons and a giant foot are just different ways to get the job done :-\

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Mr Plough, that's my name, that name again is Mr. Plough....snail.

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ImpurestCheese

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@ostyo: Just the response I was expecting for you

#ostyohatessnails

@cattlebattle: Unfortunately a Plough Snail would wait for you to die of starvation before digging you out of your house. What a jerk huh, eating your customers

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@impurestcheese said:


@cattlebattle: Unfortunately a Plough Snail would wait for you to die of starvation before digging you out of your house. What a jerk huh, eating your customers

Eh, sounds like typical government employed snow clearing sensibilities in the NY metropolitan area. He would fit right in. I had a neighbor that was eaten by a plow driver, his name was Earl. True story!!

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ImpurestCheese

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@itsomething: Yeah it's actually in a group of three Animals featured in IGTA that feed or attack Man O War. The others being the Blanket Octopus and the Sea Swallow (All Molluscs BTW)

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So weird question, why doesn't the salt water hurt it? Like salt is supposed to kill snails right?

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@cgoodness: It's all down to how the hormones regulate the internal salt levels. Marine snails can manage the rate they remove salt from their bodies to a greater extent than Terrestrial and Freshwater snails.

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#21  Edited By Cream_God
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:O Never knew snails could swim...

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ImpurestCheese

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@dboyrules2011: Yes there are a wide range of Marine and Freshwater Snails

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deactivated-097092725

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That foot looks like a sexy, Betty Boop leg.

I will never underestimate snails again.

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#26  Edited By FoolsGold

@impurestcheese said:

@foolsgold: Yep she does

@cbishop: Of course did you think all snails were slow moving friendly lettuce munchers

This one uses a harpoon to kill fish...and occasionally people
This one uses a harpoon to kill fish...and occasionally people

Figured it wouldn't be long until highly venomous cone snails where mentioned.

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#27  Edited By ImpurestCheese

@ms-lola: Yep there's a whole lot more to them then most people realise

@foolsgold: Not long at all it seems

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@ms-lola: Yep there's a whole lot more to them then most people realise

@foolsgold: Not long at all it seems

Well they are pretty notable.

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#30  Edited By FoolsGold

@dboyrules2011 said:

:O Never knew snails could swim...

Most Molluscs mare aquatic :)

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Samimista

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D'aw!!! That's so cute. I'd name one Gary. :D

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@samimista: Meow. Hmm it seems as if Gary is trying to eat your hand. Good luck with your new 'trying to eat you alive' pet