Snails are Righties

This snail was climbing on an ornamental grass in my garden.  It was small (maybe 1/2″ at the most), but I was still impressed with how it was able to hold on to the thin grass seed stem.

This closeup makes its balancing act look like even more of an accomplishment.

Note that I took my photos of the “far” side of the snail shell.  We are so used to looking at the side with all of the whorls that seeing the snail from this angle is a bit interesting.  Do you know what the circular hollow area caused by the spirals is called?  According to The Western Society of Malacologists Field Guide to the Slug by David George Gordon, it is called an umbilicus.  Bet you didn’t know that.

Gordon also points out another very interesting fact:

With the exception of an occasional mutant, all Northwest turbinate shells are dextral- that is, the bulk of the shell is worn rather jauntily on the soft body’s right side.  If you should happen to find a left-sided shell, hang on to it.  It could be valuable, if not to science then at least to an amateur collector.

I can’t say whether this is a native snail or not, and most that I find around the yard are probably not natives.  But I’m still going to start paying attention to which side the shells are sitting from now on!

  1. So do I. I especially like the snail posts.
    In German we even have a special name for the left handed snails: We call them snail kings.
    And indeed, it is quite a special thing to find one.
    Besides, there are quite many snail groups, which are always left-handed, for example most door snails (Clausiliidae) and some bulin snails (Enidae).
    Kind regards
    Robert II.

    1. Robert- thanks for the info! I knew there were some lefties somewhere, but I don’t think any of our native snails are lefties.

  2. I love the diversity of your posts! I learn something new each time. I can’t remember the last time I saw a snail. Maybe I’m not looking hard enough!

  3. oh drat, I just found one slinking across my front porch on Sunday night and took it across the street and dumped it in the grass on the roadside, figured it might be after my roses. wish I had read this first, I would have checked the shell.

  4. I have to say it, ‘who knew’!
    Wonderful info.
    I haven’t seen a snail in a long while myself but next time I do I’ll more closely observe what I’m seeing.
    Nice post.

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