Welcome to the Bulletin Board for Land Snails in El Yunque Forest!
Poke out of Your Shells and Be Counted!
Snails are not as noticeable as many other animal species. Unfortunately, when humans think of forest creatures in El Yunque, they think of lizards, birds, bats, and frogs. They don’t think of snails and our shell-less cousins, the slugs. Why not? Mainly we live in soil or in leaves on top of the soil. We also live on tree trunks. We are not easy to spot. Some of us are very small. Perhaps that is why humans do not understand the ecology of land snails very well. (Ecology is our relation to the environment.)
However, we do exist and we do count! Some 34 types of land snails live in the lush forests of El Yunque. One of the most common is Caracolus caracolla (C. caracolla for short). We are very common. You will find us everywhere in the forest. You do have to look closely. Snails are much more common in tropical forests like El Yunque than in cooler temperate forests. We also have many more types here. Snails feed on plants and matter that collect on the ground. This makes us very important to the forest community. Take that, you showy but extremely scarce Puerto Rican parrot!
How Common is Very Common?
Let’s look at just one type of land snail, C. caracolla. In the wetter regions of El Yunque, you will find up to 8,640 of these snails in a hectare (a 2 1/2-acre area)! That’s around 720 snails living in an area that is the size of a modest home plot. Impressive, isn’t it?
Land Snail Big Shots
C. caracolla is the forest’s best known and most studied land snail. Most snail information here refers to this species. (A famous member of the forest community, the editor of this bulletin board, is a C. caracolla snail). We have adapted to the warm, moist conditions of the forest quite well. We make our homes in more different niches, or microhabitats (very small and specialized living areas), than any other local snail.
Here are some exciting facts about C. caracolla:
- We are hermaphrodites. Sounds exotic, doesn’t it? No, we do not dance with veils. Nor do we sing alluring songs that cause sailors to crash on rocks. It means each of us is born with both male and female reproductive organs in one body.
- We are world travelers (at least our ancestors were). Snails in our group inhabit most of the warmer regions of the world. We live in southern and eastern Asia, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. We enjoy a variety of homes, but we prefer living in trees.
- We are the prettiest snails in El Yunque (in my humble opinion). Our shells are large (up to 3 inches (7.6 cm) in diameter) and circular. They resemble symmetrical spirals.
Sammy C. Caracolla