What is a mollusc actually? Molluscs are invertebrate animals with soft bodies. They include snails, shells or even squids, for example. Although molluscs are one of the forms of life with the most varied outward shapes and are the second-largest group of animals, little research has been conducted into them. Molluscs developed as early as 500 million years ago; despite this, there is still too little information to help research scientists explain their evolution, adaptation and behaviour patterns.
The project entitled “2021 Mollusc of the Year” has been launched to fill this gap in our knowledge. The aim is to make people more familiar with molluscs and support and encourage research work into this group of creatures.
After an appeal was launched at the end of December 2020 for people to nominate their “favourite mollusc”, there are now four candidates:
- The chiton lives in the intertidal zones of New Zealand, has probably already existed for 400 million years and can survive in the air for a fairly long time, in contrast to other types of chitons. With its snake-like skin and the eight coloured and sculptured individual coat-of-mail shells, it does not look like a snail at first sight.
- The “spirula spirula” lives in the sea in tropical and subtropical regions at a depth of between 100 and 1,000 metres. This species of squid swims on with its head pointing downwards and was first recorded on video in 2020.
- The Cuban land snail is famous for its brilliant shell colours and its puzzling love dart, which it uses to spear mating partners. Unfortunately, what is probably the most beautifully coloured species of snail with shells in yellow, brown, red, green, white, black or orange is threatened with extinction.
- The Greater Argonaut is a pelagic octopus, which occurs in the Mediterranean area and is regarded as the astronaut of the seas. In contrast to other octopuses, the Greater Argonaut moves less frequently on the seabed than on the surface of the oceans.
It is possible to vote for the “2021 Mollusc of the Year” competition at the TBG LOEWE Centre website until 31 January 2021. An international jury consisting of scientists from the Senckenberg Natural History Museum in Frankfurt, the LOEWE Centre for Translational Biodiversity Genomic (TBG) and the Global Society for Mollusc Research (Unitas Malacolgica) selected the four types of molluscs described above from more than 120 public nominations and they will compete for the title. The complete genetic material of the winning creature will be decoded.
The winner will be announced on 1 February 2021.