Dutch snails’ speedy evolution

This October 2018 video is about the Yellow Banded Snail, Cepaea nemoralis.

Translated from Naturalis Biodiversity Center in the Netherlands:

Snails in IJsselmeerpolders [Dutch Flevoland province] evolve at high-speed

In the eyes of people, snails may be very slow-moving; however, they evolve rapidly. This Evolutionary biologist Menno Schilthuizen of Naturalis Biodiversity Center discovered this, based on the IJsselmeer polders since they were reclaimed from the Ijsselmeer lake.

He calculated that after 50 years, snails in forests had evolved at a four times higher frequency certain colour forms than snails in grassland. This is one of the highest rates ever recorded in animals in the wild. The study will appear in the journal Heredity, the publication is already online.

Among evolutionary biologists, the grove snail Cepaea nemoralis is almost as famous as the Darwin finch. The snails’ shells come in a rich range of hues, under the influence of evolution depending on the environment where the snails live. So, lighter colored snails in full sun are less likely to overheat and so they survive better in grassland than in woodland. But how strong this natural selection is and therefore how quickly differences between forest and open terrain evolve, has remained unclear for a long time.

Snails, like humans, can be right-handed or left-handed and the swirl etched into the shell of a snail can reveal a lot about them, down to their genetic makeup. Researchers from Shinshu University and the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University in Japan have found that the gene influencing the direction of the shell coil may also offer insight into the evolution of snails overall. The scientists published their results on January 10, 2019, in Zoological Letters: here.


10 thoughts on “Dutch snails’ speedy evolution

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