The Otway Black Snail

The Otway Black Snail Credit: OtwayLifemagazine

You might not be into snails in a big way except to kill them like I do when they invade my garden, but next time you decide to do this, stop for a moment.

Did you know that 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? 1

Yesterday you saw some of the magnificence of nature in the Otway Ranges - south west of Melbourne, in Victoria. Deep in this forest there is a little black snail.

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... 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?1

The Otway Black Snail Credit:OtwayLifemagazine

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 1

The Otway Black Snail Credit:OtwayLifemagazine

Now that you are a little more interested in snails, here is a very close up of this little fellow.

The Otway Black Snail Credit: OtwayLifemagaine

And there is no better place to view the exact details of this remarkable creature than through the Museums Victoria Collections.

But what have snails to do with art? A great deal, you will be surprised to know - or perhaps not!

First there is that remarkable shell which Caroline explained to us in A Sequence of Very Famous Numbers.

But when I think of snails and art I think of them inhabiting the pages of medieval manuscipts. Knights didn't only go after dragons - they went off fighting snails which I think is a great idea. Except, please leave our Otway Black snail alone.

So you don't believe me? The article below will tell you all about the battles between Knight and Snail!

Knight v Snail
Recently a group of us went into our manuscripts store to have a look at some medieval genealogical rolls. We were examining Royal MS 14 B V, an English roll from the last part of the 13th century that contains quite a lot of marginalia, when one of our post-medieval...