Sunday, March 21, 2010

A meeting of old and new

Sphincterochila candidissima (Draparnaud, 1801) is a very noticeable denizen of seaside cliffs and coralline karsts of the central Mediterranean. Right now (in addition to a period in late October-November) this species is highly active in Malta, with most reproduction and egg-laying taking place in time before the imminent summer season forces the animals to aestivate.

The snails are white for optimum reflection of heat, and construct hardy epiphragms (aperture coverings) from mucus and calcite dust, which prevent considerable water loss by evaporation.

The photograph shows a live mature individual, resting next to the long-dead shell of a presumed ancestor. The latter is embedded in a Holocene rupestral deposit. The specimens come from a small population at Rdum tal-Madonna, Mellieħa.

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