Category Archives: Mollusks

The Not So Mysterious Violet Snail

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Nearly every picture book I’ve created has a snail hidden inside as a tribute to my first picture book, Tiny Snail. As I researched sea snails for “Sea Horse, run!”  I had to include the Violet Snail (Janthina janthina) because it loves to surf.

Art for pages 14 and 15 of "SEA HORSE, RUN!".

Violet Snails are rather small. They only grow as large as 1.2 inches, but they like to live near the top of reefs so they can quickly hitch a ride with a wave. This amazing little snail surfs with bubbles. In fact, the Violet Snail can build a “raft” out of bubbles, and by clinging to his bubble raft, a Violet Snail can float to the surface of the water and travel for hundreds of miles from one reef to the next. Surely this makes the Violet Snail the most widely-traveled snail in the world.

In “Sea Horse, run!” the Violet Snail is seen on page 15 hitching a ride a with a wave in order to flee the approaching Sea Dragon. Although the Violet Snail only appears on two pages in my book, he is making many appearances lately in the news due to some groundbreaking work by scientists. A team of researchers led by University of Michigan graduate student Celia Churchill reported their findings October 11th in the journal Current Biology. The Violet Snail is featured on the journal’s cover, and Celia Churchill says the bubble raft (which has the consistency of bubble wrap) is actually a modified version of an egg packet.

Art ©2011 by Tammy Carter Bronson

My favorite article is “Snails Ship Out On Scrambled Eggs” at Science NOW online.

Additional news with great photos is on-line at MSNBC News October 10, 2011.
The same article (“Snails Sail Through Life on Mucus Bubbles”) is published at livescience.com.

NPR did a 30 second news snippet this morning entitled: Biologists Solve Surfing Snails Mystery.

Rafting Snails Float Around On Bubbles (RedOrbit.com, Oct 11)

Current Biology October 11, 2011

National Geographic October 19, 2011

October 10, 2011 University of Michigan News Service: “In bubble-rafting snails, the eggs came first”.

http://io9.com/5850750/scientists-sort-out-the-secrets-of-bubble+rafting-snails

Even the UK’s Daily Mail picked up the article on October 11, 2011.

Here is an older article about Violet Snails…

October 20, 2008, National Geographic: How Snails Walk on Water is a Small Miracle

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Giant Pacific Octopus

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Art © 2011 by Tammy Carter Bronson

The giant Pacific octopus is a mollusk that lives in coastal waters of the Pacific Ocean. This octopus has two large eyes that can watch for predators by turning backward or forward. Since the octopus does not have any bones, it can squeeze into tiny spaces to hide from predators. If its hiding place is found, the octopus will squirt black ink so the predator will not see them make a quick escape. Predators of the giant octopus include eels, seals, dolphins, sharks and whales.

This giant likes to feed on other mollusks like clams and snails. Crabs are another favorite food, but a crab can snap off the end of the octopus’s tentacle. No worries! The giant Pacific octopus has the ability to regenerate or regrow a lost limb. This is even more astonishing when you consider how complex their limbs are. Each tentacle has two rows of tiny suckers that can hold, taste, and manipulate objects, and a tentacle may have as many as 280 suckers. That means the number of suckers on all eight tentacles can total 2,240!

The female giant octopus will lay as many as 50,000 eggs all at once. She does not eat or sleep while she guards her eggs, and when the eggs hatch, she dies.

MORE AMAZING FACTS:

The largest giant Pacific octopus ever found lived in the North Pacific and had tentacles 33 feet long!

Like the sea horse and leafy sea dragon, an octopus can change the color and texture of its skin in order to blend perfectly with its environment. This camouflage helps protect them from predators.

“Sea Horse, run!” BOOK NOTES:

Featured on the cover and found on pages 12, 26, and 31 of the book.

Royal British Columbia Museum, 2004

FIND THIS OCTOPUS AT THE…

Monterey Bay Aquarium
This page has a great video of the giant Pacific octopus in action.

Royal British Columbia Museum
I visited this museum during a trip from Seattle to Victoria, BC in May of 2004. Yes, that is me squinting at the camera while standing beside a very “Egyptian” killer whale.

RECOMMENDED READING:

Gentle Giant Octopus Text ©1998 by Karen Wallace, Illustrations ©1998 by Mike Bostock
Published by Candlewick Press, Somerville, Massachusetts.

Mollusk Gallery

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Mollusks include snails, slugs, clams, squid, cuttlefish, and octopi. The majority of mollusks live in the water. Mollusks are organized into several classes. The largest class is GASTROPODA with more than 65,000 species of snails and slugs.

Art copyright 2011 by Tammy Carter Bronson.