The spiral in a snail’s shell is the same mathematically as the spiral in the Milky Way galaxy, and it’s also the same mathematically as the spirals in our DNA. It’s the same ratio that you’ll find in very basic music that transcends cultures all over the world. Joseph Gordon-Levitt
The Otway Black Snail is unique to a very specific part of the Otway Ranges and is most often associated with the area known as Ferguson, between Laver’s Hill and Beech Forest. It has a distinctive cream and golden spiral on its shiny black shell. The spiral is a universal symbol of the cycle of life and snails have ancestors reaching back to the earliest known animals on Earth almost 500 million years ago. Snails are gastropods and hermaphrodites though they do need a partner to reproduce! They are awesome survivors and across the planet there are up to 60,000 different species. However, snails have had some bad press over the centuries due to their destructive activities in crops and domestic gardens. But hey, a species has to survive anyway it can right?
The Otway Black Snail Victaphanta compacta is only found in wet forests and cool temperate rainforests in the Otway Ranges, Victoria. It is one of four species of Victaphanta in the family Rhytididae, being carnivorous land snails and one of five species of carnivorous land snails found in the Otway Ranges but it is the only carnivorous land snail endemic to the Otway Ranges.
Being only located in such a small and specific area, the approximately a 900 sq km area of the Otway Ranges southwards between Lorne to Gellibrand to Lavers Hill, makes the snail both unique and vulnerable.
Like most terrestrial snails, the Otway Black Snail is partially nocturnal. It is carnivorous, feeding on other snails, slugs, earthworms and soft bodied insect larvae but is not cannibalistic and lives between 2-8 years.
Threats from forest disturbance on Public Land have been significantly reduced with a phase out of timber harvesting in the Otways being completed by 2008. In addition, recommendations of the Victorian Environment Assessment Council (VEAC) Angahook-Otway Investigation, 2005 lead to creation of the Great Otway National Park and Otway Forest Park which was declared open in December 2005. This has substantially increased protection of the Otway Black Snail habitat.
With an El Nino producing two years of below average rainfall in the Otways in 2014 & 2015 and a bushfire in prime habitat this endangered species is under increasing pressure for its survival.
Scientific information sourced from SWIFFT the State Wide Integrated Flora and Fauna Teams is a network and an initiative supported by Federation University Australia, the Ballarat Environment Network and the Victorian Department of Environment Land Water and Planning.
Photo Credits: Kerry Hulm https://www.instagram.com/khulmie/