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A resident alien snail from Sawston, Cambridgeshire

July 6, 2009

In this post I talked briefly about finding the mid-twentieth century introduction Hygromia cinctella Draparnaud 1801 in Yeovil in Somerset. Back in May I was digging in Cambridgeshire, when I came across these (modern) shells of another introduction, Cernuella virgata Da Costa 1778:

Cernuella virgata Da Costa 1778

Cernuella virgata Da Costa 1778

C. virgata is a somewhat older resident than H. cinctella, it’s probably a Romano-British introduction (Davies 2008: 178). It is a calciphile, which means it only lives where lime is abundant, and can be found on moderately dry and open sites such as grassland, dunes, and sometimes hedgerows (Davies 2008: 13, Kerney and Cameron 1979: 178).

The impact of Roman occupation on our flora and fauna is worth a mention. As well as a number of other snails, species introduced during the Romano-British period include the brown hare (also found on the site at Sawston), peacocks, and pheasants. It’s possible that the black rat was a Roman introduction (Davis 1987: 193), and in the past some have claimed that the fallow deer was also introduced at this time, although evidence that a breeding population was established in Roman times is lacking (Sykes 2004: 79).

I noticed recently that there is a forthcoming book called ‘Introductions and Extinctions in the British Isles’, edited by Dr Naomi Sykes (who has studied fallow deer extensively) and Professor Terry O’ Connor, and which will also include a chapter on land and freshwater Mollusca by Professor Paul Davies, who wrote the textbook Snails: Archaeology and Landscape Change (Oxbow, 2008), which I reference rather a lot on this blog. I’m not entirely sure when it will be published, but I’m looking forward to reading it.


DAVIES, P., 2008: Snails: Archaeology and Landscape Change (Oxford: Oxbow)

DAVIS, S.J.M, 1987: The Archaeology of Animals (London: Routledge)

KERNEY, M.P., and CAMERON, R.A.D, 1979: A Field Guide to the Land Snails of Britain and North-west Europe (London: Collins)

SYKES, N., 2004: The Introduction of Fallow Deer to Britain: A Zooarchaeological Perspective. Environmental Archaeology 9 (1), 75-84

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 9, 2009 1:45 pm

    Hi Matt,
    Did the romans introduce the big ones eating my garden?

  2. matthewlaw permalink*
    July 9, 2009 1:54 pm

    If those are Cornu aspersum, then I’m afraid so.

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