Amid plentiful predators (crabs, seabirds, and fish), the tumble of surf and stone, vast ebb and flow in tide and seasonal temperature, the periwinkle snail is a wondrous survivor. We might look to it for a model of durability in these coronavirus days.
Three species of periwinkle inhabit the mostly rocky coast of Maine’s Boothbay Region, each having developed different survival methods.
Able to thrive at different salinities and exposure levels, the common periwinkle is the most adaptable and therefore most abundant of the three. Considered an invasive species (perhaps traveling from Europe on ship hulls in the 1800s), it is the largest of the three species, growing up to two inches in size.
The smooth periwinkle—a native species—shares the middle and lower shores habitat with the common periwinkle, but as a less adaptable species is fewer in number. Prone to desiccation, smooth periwinkles seek spaces under seaweed and rocks that remain moist during low tides. Though a rarer sight than the common periwinkle, the smooth periwinkle’s richer coloration range (from brown to green to vivid yellow) allows it to stand out from the drab gray of its common cousin.
The rough periwinkle enjoys its own habitat, the upper shores of our coastline. Unlike the other two species, which have gills, the rough periwinkle can breathe air (using its mantle cavity as a lung), and thus can survive longer stints out of water. The smallest of the three species, it is easily identifiable by its rough edges and sharp points.
Our three periwinkle species flourish in their own peculiar ways, threats all around.
As viral and economic hazards linger, we too must find ways to cope. For some, that may mean going on daily long walks, finding peace and solace in natural beauty. Others may turn to service, delivering food to those in need. Some may have developed active Zoom social lives. Others struggle in isolation.
Some of us have radically altered our daily routines in fear of the virus; others simply carry on.
We are all managing (and therefore surviving) using our divergent strategies. In that, we’re not so far off from the humble periwinkle, that most unexpected of exemplars.