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Snail Camouflage

November 13, 2007

A sneaky snail evades predators by creating a unique form of organic camouflage.


A snail’s sticky camouflage. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

A snail from the Canary Islands faces a difficult dilemma. It eats the moss-like lichens that grow on rocks. It can only feed during the day, when humid trade winds keep it from drying out. But this makes it especially vulnerable to predators. So the snail evolved a unique camouflage. According to biologist Christoph Allgaier, of the University of Tübingen in Germany, it applies lichen granules to its shell using its own sticky mucus.

CHRISTOPH ALLGAIER (University of Tübingen):
The snail just grazes the lichen material from the surface, and then it bends over to apply it even on the tip of its shell.

The snails craft the lichen granules into bumpy protuberances that resemble real lichens. This allows them to hide in plain sight. In fact, the species is so well hidden, it was only described by science for the first time last year. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.