Hitch a ride! Q A

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KARIEN LE ROUX from Stru­is­baai writes: The blue shell of this snail drew my at­ten­tion. And then I no­ticed the crab. What’s go­ing on?

Marine ex­pert GE­ORGINA JONES says: This is a bub­ble snail, which hangs up­side down on the sea sur­face us­ing mu­cous­cov­ered bub­bles as a raft to stay afloat. It feeds on blue­bot­tles, among other things, and is usu­ally only seen when it has washed ashore. The crab is a Colum­bus crab, which is of­ten found in as­so­ci­a­tion with these snails. I gather that the crab is not a great swim­mer so it might be hang­ing onto the bub­ble snail’s raft to stay afloat. I don’t think it eats the snail, although it might eat the snail’s waste or have a go at the eggs. At first I thought they were fight­ing, but later some­one told me that some snakes do a mat­ing dance…

ARep­tile ex­pert JOHAN MARAIS says: Your first in­stinct was right, Karien – these two males are fight­ing. Dur­ing bat­tle, the stronger male tries to force the other to the ground and the win­ner gets the girl.

ABird ex­pert LUKAS NIEMAND says: It’s hard to make a di­ag­no­sis with­out ex­am­in­ing the bird, but one of the most com­mon tu­mours found in birds is lipoma. A lipoma is a be­nign tu­mour made up of ex­cess fat cells un­der the skin. It’s usu­ally found on the breast or ab­dom­i­nal area. It’s rel­a­tively harm­less, but if the lipoma be­comes too big it can hin­der the bird’s move­ment. Lipo­mas are usu­ally caused by an ab­nor­mal diet or ge­netic de­fects. A growth can also oc­cur when an in­fec­tion causes an ab­scess, but then the feath­ers on the growth will have looked wet.

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