Allen W Thrasher athr at LOC.GOV
Wed Jan 28 19:44:36 UTC 2009

Dear Alexandra,

The Wiki article Operculum (gastropod) seems to contradict itself as to whether some terrestrial snails have opercula.  The article Snail says all marine, some freshwater, and some terrestrial ones do.  Also, some land snails secrete a calcareous epiphragm before hibernating, with the same functions as a permanent operculum, very pertinent in a monsoon climate, I should think.  Anyway, our artist perhaps had to chance to see freshwater snails (which I find always come along with lotuses when you buy them and raise them in tubs, and are prolific and hardy and surive the winter, or at least their eggs do).

The gastropod thesis becomes more plausible to me as I look at the illustrations in the Snail article today.

I wonder if the conventional representation of makaras would have overruled any small tendency to realistic representation of dolphins, as Western artists who had access to lions in royal menageries still represented them in an heraldic manner.  Ernst Gombrich gave a marvelous example from the sketchbook of Villard d'Honnecourt in a lecture in Seattle years ago. 

Getting back to invertebrates as such, I think I have seen representations of butterflies in miniatures which had four legs not six, and not just in views where one pair would have  been covered by the wings.  But these were not sculptures.


>>> Alexandra Vandergeer <geeraae at GEOL.UOA.GR> 1/28/2009 2:25 AM >>>
Dear Alan,

Not unlikely, after all, the only shell-inhabiting creatures the artist
possibly could have seen are snails. The ocean is too far away (I could't
find a sculpture of a good dolphin either), so alive conches are out. But
snails abound, and everybody has seen its antennae. The 'blob' then goes
unexplained, because landsnails don't have an operculum. Could it simply
be a mass of slime? Or a diminutive representation of the shell as you see
on the back of a walking snail?


> Also, could the 'horns' be meant to be
> antennae, appropriate if the painter knew that the animal that inhabited
> a Shankha was a sort of snail?

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