Sunday, February 05, 2017

A Little Mitzvah.

My dad and I were once up on a mountain in Alabama called Wade Mountain. All covered in limestone boulders. A movement on the rocks caught my dad's eye and he saw a snail moving quite faster than he'd ever seen a snail travel. He pointed it out and we both went over, knelt down, and watched what was going on.

The snail was being attacked by this very colorful predator bug that I've only ever seen on Wade Mountain. The bug was built low to the ground, had many legs (far more than six) and had a shiny, segmented carapace of bright red, and brown, and yellow. It obviously was trying to kill and eat the snail.

And the snail was employing several methods of defense: It was moving along, as I said, faster than you would think a snail could ever go. Just exuding slime. But the bug was faster and kept darting around--front-back-side, over and over relentlessly, trying to bite the snail.

But another thing the snail was doing was making this shield of thick, viscous bubbles. The bug could get through them, but only after biting and biting and never quite reaching flesh before more bubbles would be produced.

We continued to watch as the snail made a really big bath of these bubbles and came to a halt as the bug attacked from one side. At that point the snail's shell leaned heavily to the left. The bug was trying to bite through the last of the bubbles. We couldn't figure out why the snail was leaning over so far.

And then the snail SNAPPED to the right and knocked the holy shit out of the bug, sending it backward a little. didn't really injure the bug and as soon as it recovered from the shock it came right back. We figured it was curtains for the brave snail.

So my dad took a stick and flicked the bug off the boulder on which we were all crouching, sending the predatory little bastard about twenty feet down to the forest floor where it wandered around and vanished into the leaf litter.

Talk about yer deus ex machina.
One of the spots on Wade Mountain where we used to hike.The entire mountain is like this...limestone rock everywhere and packed with all sorts of fossils.

The snail we saw was similar to this one.

This is a millipede. And most millipedes are herbivores, but in my kid's memory, the bug doing the attacking looked a lot like this. Not sure if it was a millipede like this one, but it sure did look very similar.


Edward Forrest Frank said...

Centipedes are typically carnivorous. Possibly one of them. They have a flattened body cross-section and two legs per segment.

James Robert Smith said...

I have seen both centipedes and millipedes. And, as I said, I wish I could recall exactly what the bug looked like. I had thought that all millipedes were herbivores, but I have since read that some are omnivorous and will hunt and kill.

At any rate, my dad rescued the snail. He figured that it had fought valiantly and deserved to survive, even though it had used up its bag of tricks. I have never heard any instances of the things we saw in this little drama. Neither the relative super-speed the snail employed, or the shield of defensive bubbles, nor the sudden snapping of the shell to use as a bludgeon on the bug.

The more I have seen of wild creatures, the more I came to understand that they are not just automatons. Even things like snails can make decisions. And perhaps they even feel emotions.