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Chance to see evolution at work

A megalab experiment on banded snails will enable everyone to see evolution at work in the natural world around them.

Shell variation recorded

Two species of banded snail, Cepaea nemoralis and Cepaea hortensis, are found in many parts of the UK. There is a lot of variety in the shell colour and banding pattern across the different locations in which they live.

Research over the last 50 years on the distribution of different shell patterns indicated that it is mainly due to differences in predation by thrushes and environmental temperature. However, over the same period song thrush populations have declined significantly and the climate has become warmer. The megalab experiment aims to find out how these factors have affected the banded snail population.

Evolution megalab logo

A public experiment

The Evolution Megalab is being run by the Open University, supported by the Royal Society. In 2009, the year of Darwin’s bicentenary, the general public will be asked to look for banded snails in their gardens and public open spaces. They will be asked to count the numbers of snails of different shell patterns and to send their results to the Open University using mobile phones and the internet.

Maps showing the distribution of the different shell patterns will then be compared with historical data by leading genetic scientists. Everyone who participates will receive automated personalized interpretations of their observations.

If you would like to participate in small-scale pilots of the megalab being run in July 2007 and in 2008, contact [email protected]


‘There is grandeur in this view of life... from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.’ Charles Darwin