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Got Snails?

— by Chris Watson

A Semotrachia snail out and about in damp weather. Picture courtesy of Mark Carter.

Land for Wildlife is putting out the call this week to all friends and members who have fig trees on or near their properties. We’ve been talking with local land snail expert Mark Carter, and he says that these trees are a favourite haunt for many species of inland gastropod.

Here in Central Australia we have more than 80 species of endemic land snails. Some of these species are so specialised that they only exist under one or two fig trees in a single gorge in the ranges. The good news for Land for Wildlife and Garden for Wildlife members is that some species are probably living right in your backyard.

We have feral snails here as well, but it is almost impossible for anyone but an expert to distinguish the difference between these and some of our native beauties. Mark has been to suburban properties in Alice Springs and found the beautiful Pleuroxia or Blue-horned Snail, and Sinumelon species. So if you find snails in your backyard, please don’t squash them – it’s no exaggeration to suggest that they may be the last of their kind!

Instead of squashing, we suggest snapping. We’d love to see any and all photographs you have of snails in your backyard or from when you’ve been out and about. This is a particularly understudied group of animals in Central Australia and new species could be found just about anywhere. If you have fig trees, Mark suggests giving them a bit of TLC to ensure that they remain¬†healthy habitat for our snails. Clear heavy grass overgrowth (especially Buffel) from around the base, but leave the leaf litter undisturbed.

If you find the empty shells from ex-snails during your snooping, again we’d love to hear about them and see your pictures. Of course, the other animals that love fig trees are Western Bowerbirds, so if you have a bower around your garden it might be worth checking to see if there is a ready-made collection of old snail shells.

Happy hunting.