Observation of the Week, 12/15/17

Our Observation of the Week is is Rhiostoma snail, seen in China by ladybird_sunbathing!

Yes, it’s a snail with a snorkel! iNaturalist user Yang Yi (@ladybird_sunbathing) found it in the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG) this past September. The botanical garden is located in extreme southwestern China, and he was there with a group supervised by Dr Li Shuqiang of the Beijing Institute of Zoology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The group’s focus was on collecting spiders, and Yang Yi tells me “there are approximately 800 spider species in 1125-ha XTBG, with an increase of 100 new species every year at present,” so there was a lot of work for them to do!

In addition to spiders, Yang Yi also photographed other organisms, like this beautiful green Cyclophorid snail and this “horrifying” (to quote Yang Yi) caterpillar. He found the Rhiostoma snail in the Green Stone Forest area of the park, “an area of tropical karst landform, topographically fluctuated, where rain forest and limestone forest coexist.” Although he had no idea what kind of snail it was - “those snails all looked the same to my untrained eyes” - he says “I knew @susanhewitt and @jkfoon would identify the snails.” iNat’s robust mollusk-loving community came through again, and both Susan Hewitt and JK Foon (also a featured player in the rediscovery of a snail via iNat) did come through with an ID (it’s the first Rhiostoma on iNaturalist!) and some encouraging comments.

As JK Foon commented, it’s speculated “that [the snorkel’] function could be to facilitate the snail's respiration while minimising water loss when the snail retract into its shell and seal itself up inside during long drought periods in monsoonal rainforests.” And what’s even cooler is that these snails are more closely related to marine snails (operculates) than your common land snails (pulmonates).  Amateur malacologist Phil Liff-Grieff (@pliffgrieff) tells me, “One way to see this is the location of the eyes; pulmonate eyes are at the end of their tentacles/eyestalks and operculates (both terrestrial and many marine) are at the base of the tentacles.”

As a child, Yang Yi (pictured above) was interested in nature, and devoured nature documentaries and TV shows such as those by Steve Irwin, but says

I grew up in a conventional culture, so my hobby ([thought to be] useless and ridiculous) wasn't properly supported and guided...I believe exposure to nature and cultivation of its aesthetic from early age can contribute to a lasting effect on one's development beyond measure

Yang Yi graduated from the School of Microelectronics at Fudan University this past June, and he’s now thinking about a career in conservation. “I'll soon go for an internship on bats across Yunnan Province and Southeast Asia, administratively based in Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG), meanwhile look for a possible postgraduate opportunity.”

The iNaturalist community in East Asia continues to grow, and when talking about why he uses iNat, Yang Yi quotes Hong Kong stalwart @sunnetchan:

As @sunnetchan points out, a drive lies in the obligation to record as many graceful life as possible before they are wiped out due to our neglect: pollution, commercial exploitation, climate change… There are never enough ecologists, so the data from citizen scientists matter.

- by Tony Iwane (Note that some of Yang Yi's quotes have been lightly edited.)

Posted by tiwane tiwane, December 15, 2017 21:36

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