Draw attention to the little-known plight of invertebrates

What’s small, slimy and runs the world? According to famed American biologist,naturalist, and writer E.O. Wilson, snails and other invertebrates.

These critters are the subject of a new project, launched today: the UrbanField Naturalist Guide to Snail Homing, that recognises the threat to snailsand the critical role they play in supporting ecosystems.

The project helps people find snails in their gardens or local green spacesand track them by marking their shells with nail polish or non-toxic paint.

“This project is designed to help people to learn a bit more about thefascinating lives of snails, about their home ranges and their attachment tothe places they rest each day,” project co-creator, Associate Professor Thomvan Dooren said. “Snails rely on chemo-reception, a bit like our sense ofsmell, to navigate the world, and in many cases, they seem to be pretty tiedto specific home places.”

Together with Dr Zoë Sadokierski in the School of Design at UTS, he createdthe guide to draw attention to some of the smaller, often-overlooked, wildlifethat is all around us, as well as provide some healthy distraction in theseisolating times.

“This is particularly important,” van Dooren said, “because many invertebratesare disappearing en masse, with species becoming extinct at an alarming rate.Any yet these species play a range of important but often overlooked roles inecosystems. These include:

  • pollination
  • seed dispersal
  • nutrient cycling
  • being important food sources for a range of other species.

“Snails have been particularly hard hit by extinctions. In fact, worldwide,there have been more documented extinctions of snails than there have been ofmammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians, combined.

“Despite this, snails and other invertebrates (comprising roughly 99 per centof the animal kingdom) are largely ignored in public discussions ofextinction.”

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