Louis’ Nature Field Note

A Look at Swedish Nature: Snails and Slugs

Abstract:

Although we do have a fair amount of biodiversity back home in Arizona, certain species of animals cannot survive in its harsh desert climate. On my second day in Sweden I spent about two hours walking around my suburban dorm grounds admiring snails and slugs, which are almost impossible to find back home.

Introduction:

Arizona hosts some of the most unique ecosystems and biology in the world, but due to its harsh environments, not all life can subsist there. The species of plants and animals which can survive in Arizona would likely not be able to last in Sweden, and vice versa. For instance, saguaro cacti, which are a signature of the desert, could never survive frigid Swedish winters. Similarly, Arizona’s climate is entirely too hot and dry for Swedish snails and slugs to survive. I chose to come to Sweden for many reasons, but most fundamentally, because I wanted to see how different beings live in different places. While meeting and interacting with the people here allows me to do so, observing local nature does as well.

What does this creature or plant look like?

Swedish slugs have a distinct forest green color. They are generally about three inches in length, and one inch in height and width. Unlike some other slugs that I have seen, these ones have a sort of ‘cape’ on the back halves of their bodies. Swedish snails are beautiful! I am colorblind so I have some trouble describing their actual color, but I suppose their bodies are light green-blue. The colors of their spiral shells vary, though. They can be any combination of red, black, blue, yellow, green, brown, or white. There is more variation in their sizes as well. The largest snails I have seen were a bit bigger than a golf ball, while the smallest have been no bigger than a pencil eraser. They both travel very slowly by moving across the ground in an accordion motion.

How did I feel when I saw it?

I was thrilled and excited when I first saw Swedish slugs and snails. As I mentioned, they are hardly common back in Tucson. Nearly everything about Sweden differs from Arizona, and seeing those little guys sliding around everywhere reminded me of how far from home I really was.

Where does it live?

They can be found all over the place, although they are far more common in the more remote areas of the city. Although snails have a hard outer shell, both they and slugs have invertebrate bodies. This means that they do not have hard skeletons beneath their skins and are thusly very susceptible to harm. It is likely for this reason that they are not as commonly found in areas with a lot of traffic or human activity.

How does it use its environment to survive?

Snails and slugs tend to eat decomposing organic matter such as leaves or fruit. Sweden has high levels of precipitation (rain in the summer, snow in the winter) so there is plenty of food for them. Despite all the natural vegetation, snails commonly nibble away at people’s private gardens, making them quite a pest for the local people. Critters such as mice eat snails and slugs, so they commonly crawl up the stems of leaves and trees to escape their predators. Of course, they do not really pay attention to what they are climbing, so it is common to see them stuck to the sides of buildings and walls.

What can harm this creature or plant? Are we worried about it?

These two creatures are quite vulnerable to harm. They have many natural predators, including humans. It is not uncommon for Swedes to ‘hunt’ for snails, which they will cook in a stew or on a barbeque. More commonly, though, they are accidentally stepped on by unaware walkers, run over by cars, or are eaten by birds and rodents. Despite all the hazards to their existence, there is no reason to believe that they will go extinct anytime soon. In fact, snails and slugs are overpopulated in many parts of Sweden and are viewed as a nuisance to many locals. However, I think that they are beautiful creatures worth appreciation and examination.

Thanks for reading!

Lou

louis2 Louis1

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