20 May 2010

Fig snails figured out

Mei Lin's paper on our fig snails is published on Nature in Singapore!
Last year, we had come across these intriguing snails and since then, Mei Lin has been diligently working on identifiying them.

And she shares that the fig snails we have been seeing is Ficus variegata! They were seen on shores with fine sand over a muddy bottom.

From her paper, I also learnt that their prey is unknown. Their teeth and feeding structures suggest they don't eat large prey. Remains of worms have been seen in some species of fig snails. There are stories that they eat echninoderms, but no actual observations of them doing so. So there's still lots to find out about our marine life!

Fig snails are widespread in the Indo-Pacific and other parts of the world. But they have not been widely reported for Singapore's intertidal shores. The previous known sightings of Fig snails are from bottom trawling.

From Mei Lin's exhaustive study of the names and mis-named snails, there are only two known Ficus species in Singapore: Ficus ficus and Ficus variegata.

For more, read Neo, M. L., 2010. The taxonomic status of fig shells, with notes on Ficus variegata (Röding, 1798) (Mollusca: Gastropoda: Ficoidea: Ficidae). Nature in Singapore, 3: 117–123. [PDF, 793 KB]

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