Posts Tagged 'mollusca'

You can see the slugs and the trees

treesA brief trip to some of the wet rainforests of the northwest was a revelation.

There will be more to come, but shall we begin with an atypical sublimity?AriolimaxBanana slug, Ariolimax genus,perhaps A. columbianus, Pacific Banana Slug? There are two other species, and differentiating them sounds a bit gross. About 4″ long.AriolimaxThese are named for the ripe-banana spotting. Here’s another Ariolimax, munching mushrooms, of which there were plenty.

Great Wall Addendum

Limax maximusLeopard Slugs (Limax maximus). An introduced species, thinking about making more of themselves. And what a process that is!

Spring Cleaning Snails

snailsThree different specimens of our old friend Cepaea nemoralis.snail2snail3snail4The snail’s “foot,” which gave rise to the name for this whole class of Molluscs, Gastropoda, which means simply stomach-foot (and is anatomically incorrect; the stomach is in the portion of the animal that is inside the shell).snail5Just a size comparison with some other snails found during this clean up. The mm ruler looks bent because the macro lens distorts at the edges, either that or the omphalos of the shells draws gravity in like a black hole.snail6Unknown species on the left;Discus rotundatus on the right.

Accidental Habitat

These pontoon-like things were flipped over between Piers 5 & 6 recently, revealing the:barnaclesbarnacles andblue musselsblue mussels that have found them to be a worthy foundation.


Even though we have at least one species of chiton, or coat-of-mail shell, in our northeastern waters, I’ve never come across one. The eight plates, or valves, that make up the shell usually break apart and scatter to the waves. This one was actually in a pile of shells placed as decoration in the villa we stayed in at Klein Bay. The scales on the animal’s girdle have a look of snakeskin. Speaking of girdles, the name chiton, for you fashion-backwards types, means mollusc in Latin, and comes from the Greek khiton, meaning tunic. Some of the statues in your neighborhood Greek Wing are wearing these tunics still.

Ribbed Mussels

The Atlantic ribbed mussel, Geukensia demissa, at low tide at Calvert Vaux Park. Unlike the more famous (because delicious) blue mussel, Mytilus edulis, the ribbed mussel, which is found up and down the East Coast, prefers brackish waters. They are a keystone species for salt marsh habitat and vital to Jamaica Bay. Establishing beds within the roots of cordgrass like Spartina, the clumps of mussels help to stabilize the plants while providing nutrients for them. They are also food for gulls and I assume other shore birds like oystercatchers. One source notes that while they are edible for humans, they have an unpleasant taste — which I would have thought was a good definition of inedible.
Any port in a storm.

Clam clamor

Much of my project here is about looking at things in the natural world. Looking, and discovering, and sharing. This is just a fragment of clam shell that I picked up at JBWR last weekend, but I was delighted by the detail. Click on the image to open it up: you can see the animal’s successive stages of growth.

Clams add a new layer to their shells each year, so these are like the growth rings in trees. The earliest little nub of a shell, smaller than my pinky nail, is still here. This vestige is the umbo, or beak.

Such hardshell clams can live a quarter century, but they have the unfortunate characteristic, for them, of being delicious throughout their lives.

Hardshells are also known as quahogs, which is a wonderful word taken from the Narragansett “poquauhock.” The scientific name Mercenaria mercenaria points to the famous wampum, the internal purple edges of these bivalve shells, which were carved into beads by the original Americans. (Europeans introduced the idea that wampum was money.) The pink hearts of whelks were also used. Long Island, whose southwestern end shelters Brooklyn, was known to the originals as “the land of the shells.” Older sources called this species Venus mercenaria, the goddess of love on the half shell.

In the clam eating business, the hardshell clam is also called the little neck and the cherrystone, raw bar stalwarts, depending on age. “Quahogs” are older, hence tougher, and used in chowders, and in that Manhattan clam and tomato soup that is tasty, but not, I’m afraid, chowder.

A fragment, to be sure, but one rich in biological, historical, linguistic, and culinary associations.

BTW, the specimen was posed on the surface of a surf clam picked up at Fort Tilden. But that’s another posting…


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