The Amazing Excalibur Snail
When describing newly discovered species, researchers may choose to name them after people or places, features of the animal (or shell), or to select a term that is reminiscent of a shape or an object, among other alternatives. Gyraxis excalibur is an unusually shaped land snail cleverly named after the sword of King Arthur. The small (reaching only 17 mm, or about 0.7 inch) but very elongate species was first described by G. Thomas (“Tom”) Watters from the Museum of Biological Diversity, Ohio State University, in the April 2018 issue of the British Journal of Conchology. For many years now, Tom has been studying the land snails of Hispaniola, the Caribbean island shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic. He found the Excalibur Snail living on vertical (and very wet) limestone walls in the vicinity of Sánchez, in the Dominican Republic province of Samaná. The photos were taken by James F. Kelly, under the Institute of Museum and Library Services-funded Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum Digital Imaging Project.