Evolution at a snail's pace on the doorstep

Pan-European participation project starts in Darwin Year 2009

The Black-breasted banded snail (Cepaea nemoralis) and the white-breasted banded snail (Cepaea hortensis) are found in a wide variety of habitats in Europe and have a large variety of different housings. © UFZ
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Europe's biologists are seeking thousands of volunteers to investigate the evolution of banded snails. By observing snail shells as much as possible, it will be investigated how the animals have adapted to climate change and predators.

On the occasion of the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth, February 12, the Museum of Natural History Berlin, the German Nature Conservation Union (NABU) and the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ) are launching the German version of a new Europe-wide hands-on project. "To experience and explore evolution yourself, you do not have to travel to Galapagos. Evolution also takes place on our doorstep every day, "explains Christian Anton of the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ), who coordinates the project in Germany.

Banding as an indicator of climate adaptation

The Black-breasted banded snail (Cepaea nemoralis) and the white-breasted banded snail (Cepaea hortensis) occur in various habitats between Norway and Spain. Even in the Alps, they manage to reach well over 1, 000 meters high. Their cases are yellow, red or brown and have up to five bands. In order to camouflage themselves in the most diverse habitats before the song thrush, from which they are eaten. The color of the snail shell also influences the temperature of the snail. For example, dark snails get hotter in the light than bright ones. In cool areas, therefore, more dark snail shells can be found.

The number of bands and the color adaptation of the snails to habitat and climate is an example of evolution. Climate change causes temperatures to rise. Have the snails already adapted? Are there more yellow snails today than in the past? The researchers hope to find answers to these questions from volunteer observers throughout Europe.

Throughout Europe, volunteers are being sought in Darwin Year 2009 to uncover the evolution of the Black-headed Border Snail (Cepaea nemoralis). Al Geer / Evolution MegaLab

Border snail gives an insight into living evolution

EvolutionThe evolution is not completed, but a continuing process. We meet her constantly and she reminds each of us of change and transience. If you look closely, you even look into our future and recognize the part as a whole. The observation of the Bungee Slug therefore provides insight into the evolution of our lives, "said television journalist and moderator Ranga Yogeshwar, who supports the project. display

Participation in the so far unique experiment is very easy: search for snails, note down the most important features (color, number of bands and location of the find) and register on the website www.evolutionmegalab.org. Immediately thereafter, the data will be displayed on the map. Gradually, a Europe-wide picture will emerge that makes evolution comprehensible. The project page offers background information as well as tips for participation.

With a little luck, the participants will find a find point near them on the historical data map. In this case, one can examine the old findpoint and discover if evolution was active. Currently only 200 historical populations can be seen. Another 700 will follow in the next few weeks. The researchers hope that in the Darwin Year 2009 as much as possible more data about the little Schleimer with the colorful Geh usen come to it.

(Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research - UFZ, 09.02.2009 - NPO)