S&R Poetry: “Cepaea nemoralis” by Peter Cobbold

Zoology students are apt to quail
when asked what use are the bands on a snail
The evidence they learn in class
the banding helps it hide in grass
If this is so it seems absurd
the shell is so round and curved
For life in grass one would conjecture
a somewhat flatter architecture
The reason for this one supposes
lies with Darwin not with Moses
for any creator could have designed
a shell along more cryptic lines
Or perhaps six days were not enough
to fit a snail for life in the rough.

_____

Peter Cobbold, a cell biologist, is today an Emeritus Professor of University of Liverpool, UK. As a young lecturer in the Department of Zoology he shared a tea room with an eminent geneticist Philip Sheppard FRS and evolutionary biologist Arthur Cain. Their work on the snail Cepaea remains a seminal work on the role of polymorphism in natural selection. The ditty was written in reposte to innumerable tea-room conversations about snails.

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