Ecology

Escargot on the go

Journal name:
Nature
Volume:
498,
Page:
410
Date published:
DOI:
doi:10.1038/498410a
Published online

Ancient humans' taste for snails could explain an unusual pattern of present-day distribution for one snail species.

LAUREN HOLDEN

Adele Grindon and Angus Davison at the University of Nottingham, UK, sequenced a mitochondrial gene in 111 European populations of the land snail Cepaea nemoralis (pictured). Of the seven lineages that they identified, one was found just in Ireland and in a region of the Eastern Pyrenees in southwest Europe.

The oldest C. nemoralis fossils in Ireland date to about 8,000 years ago — around the time of the first human habitation of the island. The authors suggest that ancient humans might have carried the snails — a popular food — with them as they moved between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, following Europe's Garonne river.

If examples of other species are found in Ireland and the Iberian peninsula, but not between, this could confirm the migratory route.

PLoS ONE 8, e65792 (2013)

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