by Brady Raymond
Well, folks, it’s perfect mushrooming weather, though unfortunately, it is January. Now, that’s not to say there are no mushrooms to be found, but, it’s unlikely to yield much for the hungry mushroomer. I myself haven’t been out beyond walking my dog and the like. I have spotted some mushrooms but they are either desiccating or desiccated take your pick. So, why not take an interesting deviation from the norm and talk about some other interesting lifeforms Mollusks, more specifically Gastropods of the land variety.
Why would Gastropods be of any interest to a mushroom hunter? Most mushroomers I know posses at least in small amounts some degree of nerdism. I would be willing to bet that if you’re still reading this article you may possess high levels of nerdism. Undoubtedly you’ve encountered these creatures both in your yard or garden as well as our native habitats. Heck, you probably have even picked a few off of some mushrooms at one time or another. Plus, anyone interested in identifying mushrooms will feel at home trying to put names on Gastropods. There are dichotomous keys similar to what you’d find in an ID book for mushrooms, breaking down different morphological features such as shell size, pneumostome placement on the mantle, flesh textures and mucus consistency.
Mollusk is a Phylum of life residing in the Animal Kingdom. It is a diverse Phylum only exceeded in the Animal Kingdom by Arthropods. There are some 110,000 described species that make up the four main classes consisting of the Chitons, Bivalves, Cephalopods and the Gastropods.
Chitons-are the most primitive mollusks grazing on marine algae in coastal waters.
Bivalves-have hinged shells and filter the water for nutrients. Mussels, Clams, and Oysters are examples of this group and they are an important species to people as a food source.
Cephalopods-are the most intelligent of the invertebrates. They have sophisticated nervous systems and are quite mobile. Many species skin contain chromatophores which allow them the ability to change color depending on mood or for concealment purposes. Think Squid, Cuttlefish, and Octopus. One can only imagine what they may evolve to be in 100 million years!
Gastropods–are the largest class of Mollusks. Most are marine in nature where they evolved but others have adapted to freshwater and land. Most Gastropod diets are vegetative but a few species are predatory. Many Gastropods have shells yet others have lost their shells in the evolutionary process. We will focus on land snails and slugs from here on.