One of my fondest memories admittedly links with snail sampling, most specifically in the fields near Edessa, Northern Greece. At the crack of dawn we would look for Helix lucorum which I used for my PhD. I recall that during those quite chilly mornings, we would pick out the silvery trails of snails amongst the stones. These beautiful, thin, shiny ribbons were merely a clue to their presence. Little did we know that these mucous layers laid by some snails could perhaps serve as “highways” for their peers, as Mark Davies and Jackie Blackwell recently showed (Proc. R. Soc. B (2007) 274: 1233-1236).
Davies and Blackwell used Littorina littorea as a model to examine energy saving in trail following. They employed marker and tracker snails to show that snails could save almost 70% of energy when locomoting over a fresh trail. Littorina littorea appeared to adjust the amount of their mucous production when following weathered trails. Nevertheless, the mechanism(s) by which they perceive the quality of trails, previously laid by conspecifics, remain(s) unknown. These findings attracted media attention, the work featuring in the BBC and New Scientist websites this past February (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/6400981.stm and http://www.newscientist.com/blog/shortsharpscience/2007/02/snail-superhighways.html,).
It is very difficult to assess when and why journalists may get an interest in certain areas of science and/or certain taxa. In most cases such decisions are driven by a multi-factorial process. Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that molluscs grabbed their share in the media this semester, and I certainly hope that this will be the case for the forthcoming months as well. Molluscs are extraordinary creatures and they definitely deserve it!
This is the first issue of my editorship for the Malacologist, and I would like to express my thanks and gratitude whole heartily to Dr Bill Bailey for his priceless help and guidance. I am also very grateful to everyone who has offered material for inclusion in this issue, and most particularly our awardees. Please take a minute or two to navigate through the pages displaying their research; context of some of the grants awarded last year ranges from mating behaviour in land molluscs to phylogenetic analysis of freshwater bivalvia and molecular studies of marine opisthobranchs.
Contributions of articles, brief reviews and news items (including items from non-malacological journals) are especially welcome. Please, remember that for our next issue (due February 2008) you would need to forward any material to me by mid-January at the latest (e-mail to: v.fl...@csl.gov.uk). Please keep articles and abstracts simple and succinct –as short as possible but as long as necessary- avoiding or explaining specialist terms. Where appropriate, include a reference to a more detailed account, and an illustration. Also, remember to make the content of e-mails clear in the header, or I may delete them unread as “spam”.
Dr Villie Flari,
Central Science Laboratory, York, YO41 1LZ
e-mail: v.fl...@csl.gov.uk / tel.: 01904 462596