Snails find safe haven in Neds Corner Station

You are seeing these beautiful snails with the aid of macro photography. They are actually tiny — just the size of a grain of rice.

Omegaphilla australis - a micro land snail found on Neds Corner Station by snail whisperer | Photo David Paul Museum of Victoria

I whispered these micro snails up in the mallee country of Neds Corner Station in north-western Victoria. These land snails are well-adapted to dry conditions and live under the moist bark at the base of mallee trees.

In contrast, despite three days of searching, I didn’t find any snails in the river red gum and black box communities that fringe the Murray River on this conservation reserve — possibly because this area is affected by regular flooding while the mallee is located on higher ground.

From the perspective of these tiny land snails, the mallee country on Neds Corner Station needs careful management if these species are to survive into the future.

Snails often get a bad rap because the introduced varieties can be a nuisance in your gardens. However, native snails are a critical cog in the environment because they break down organic material, converting it back to nutrients in the soil that are available for plants and other organisms such as fungi to take up.

This tiny land snail, the southern sinistral pupasnail, is left coiled - a rare trait in Australian snails. Photo: David Paul, Museum Victoria

This southern sinistral pupasnail is so-called because of its left coil — which is a rare trait in Australian snails. While it is estimated that about ten per cent of the human population is left-handed, less than one per cent of the 35,000 named snail species throughout the world have this left coiled trait — and we were lucky enough to find one of these species on Neds Corner Station.

Sometimes mutations cause left coils in otherwise right coiled species. When this occurs the reproductive organs of the snail flip to its left side as well — which makes it impossible for them to breed with right coiled snails. So you can see these mutations condemn these left coiled snails to a very lonely life!

While not as tiny as its cousins above, we had to include this photo of the Murray River shrubland snail because it looks so majestic. It also has a wonderful Latin name, Cupedora cassandra. Photo: David Paul, Museum Victoria.

Dr John Stanisic The snail whisperer

Bush Blitz is a biodiversity discovery program between the Australian Government, BHP Billiton and Earthwatch Australia.

Neds Corner Station is managed by the Trust for Nature for conservation as part of the National Reserve System.