Who would you choose, It’s their time to slime. The International Mollusc of the Year competition is here and the voting ends on Sunday. The competition kicked off this month and is run by the LOEWE Centre for Translational Biodiversity Genomics, based in Germany. Five species of soft-bodied invertebrates are vying to follow in the illustrious trail of previous winners, dubbed the “world’s most beautiful snail” and “weirdest octopus”.
The grand prize? The triumphant species will have its genome decoded to better understand its evolution and potential benefits to humanity.
The five nominees for the “International Mollusc of the Year 2023”
Hermissenda crassicornis, the thick-horned nudibranch
Hermissenda crassicornis, or thick-horned nudibranch, is a striking sea slug covered in horn-like outgrowths, called cerata. These “horns” serve a dual purpose by increasing their body surface area for respiration and sequestering venomous stinging cells to protect them from predators. The cells are not produced by the nudibranch itself, but are stolen directly from their prey!
Neopycnodonte zibrowii, the giant deep-sea oyster
The giant Methuselah oyster is one of the largest deep-water clams and one of the oldest animals ever discovered (excluding colonial animals like corals) – with a record-breaking lifespan exceeding 500 years!
Micromelo undatus, the Wavy Bubble Snail
What is this beauty? Maybe you have already asked this while scrolling down. This is Micromelo undatus, a tiny mollusc from the family of barrel bubble snails (Acteonidae). They are carnivores, feeding on tiny bristly ringworms (Polychaete) and guess what – they incorporate the toxins of these worms and use them to defend themselves from their predators such as sea stars! They are active both night and day, and even if they can retract into their shell, they do it rarely.
Limax maximus, the leopard slug
Leopard slugs are 10–20 cm long gastropods, that can live up to 3 years. They can be found resting beneath logs and stones during daytime and dry periods and only come out at night or during rainfall. Their homing instinct guides them back to their shelter after roaming. Sometimes these slugs are called the gardener’s friend, as they mainly forage on detritus and fungi, but other slug species and their eggs are on their dining menu as well.
Concholepas concholepas, the Chilean Abalone
The Chilean abalone or Peruvian tolina, also known as ‘loco’ (a loanword from the Mapuche people in Chile). Itis a species of large edible sea snail, belonging to the family Muricidae. It is a top predator in the communities where it lives. Moreover considered one of several keystone species controlling the abundance of other species.