Monday, October 11, 2010

Amateur To Expert.... Someday

This is the inaugural post for LeafLitterCritters. In this blog I will start from absolutely zero knowledge about land snails (other than the fact I know a snail or slug to see one) and, hopefully, become versed in identification. I'll also occasionally post non-snail terrestrial creatures and whatever of interest I find while out rooting through the leaf litter.

The exposition as to why I've become fixated on land snails comes in two parts. First, while out birding I picked up a rather interesting snail shell and gave it to my daughter, Emma. I didn't identify it or anything, in fact didn't think much about it-- other than I thought it was interesting.

Fast forward to about 6 months later when I was watching PBS and a segment on the episode of 'Nature' centered around the Cuban Painted Snail.  I don't know if you've seen the show 'Nature,' but the cinematography is stunning. And seeing snails the full size of my big screen television-- their scultpure, the eyes at top of their tentacles/stalks-- I was hooked.

It's been about two weeks since I've become fixated on land snails and I already realize one thing-- snail identification is tough. It's not that I don't possess the wherewithal, after all I pride myself on being rather good at sandpiper identification (a tough group of birds), it's that it is hard to find information on snail identification. I can jump on any website and buy a few books on bird identification. Snails, not so much. It took me a week to find a book by John Burch from the 60s entitled: How to Know the Eastern Land Snails. Of course, it's out of date in some ways,  particularly in current taxonomy, but it's a start.

One website I found that is going to be my go-to site is the Carnegie Museum of Natural History's Pennsylvania Land Snail page. I'm lucky to find a page dedicated to the snails in my own state, as there don't seem to be many states that have the same. It's at

But, I digress, and I'm ready to take on the challenge of becoming knowledgeable about land snails.

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