Behind the scenes at the Evolution MegaLab
The three different banding patterns of a yellow Cepaea nemoralis; no bands, one band and many bands. (Image © Mike Dodd)
To commemorate the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin, researchers are conducting the largest evolutionary survey undertaken in a wild species. Two types of banded snails, Cepaea nemoralis and C. hortensis, are being studied by a team of collaborators in 14 countries who are asking the public across Europe to help them find out whether the snails have evolved in response to changes in their environment. The data collected will be compared with historical samples, some of them collected over 100 years ago.
"Most banded snail populations display easily identifiable differences in shell colouring and banding" says Professor Jonathan Silvertown from the Open University. "The Evolution MegaLab involves the general public in a project to discover what effect climate change and changes in bird predation are having upon the evolution of these two species."
Banded snails occur in many parts of the UK and continental Europe. The Evolution MegaLab allows members of the public to participate in the study by uploading data to the research website. The website has a variety of resources including background information on banded snails and full instructions on how to participate in the project. Participants are provided with personalised, informative feedback and can see their contribution on the website.
"Evolution MegaLab is providing the public with the opportunity to contribute to a unique scientific study," says Jonathan.