Wednesday, January 25, 2006

I'm Just A Bit Incredulous

It sounds like something out of James and the Giant Peach--or something that a Creationist might come up with the explain the presence of snails in remote places:
LONDON (Reuters) - Land snails, not the quickest of creatures, managed to travel from Europe to remote islands in the South Atlantic by hitching rides on birds.

Scientists had assumed that snails living on the Tristan da Cunha islands midway between South Africa and Brazil were a different species from those in Europe but researchers in the Netherlands and Britain have shown they belong to the same family.

"Land snails, which we normally think of as being rather slow moving, can actually disperse enormous distances by hitching rides on birds," said Richard Preece, of the University of Cambridge, in England in an interview on Wednesday.

A genetic analysis of snails from the isolated islands, which were thought to be unique to them, revealed they belong to the genus Balea just like their European cousins.

"We have shown that they are indeed exactly the same genus as Balea," said Preece, who reported the finding in the journal Nature.
The article first says "species" then later says "same genus," which makes me wonder if the writer of this article understands the difference. How, exactly, do snails not only get on a bird--but stay on it for more than one thousand miles? Seat belts?

UPDATE: A reader says that it isn't the snails hitching a ride; it is snail eggs on the legs of the birds. I would expect that this would only work occasionally--maybe 1% of 1% of the time? But repeat a low probability event every year for millenia, and it will happen.

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