A Snail's Odyssey

The story begins with a curious girl who finds a littorine snail on the shore and, on the advice of her mother, promptly throws it into the sea. Good environmental practise? No, because the snail's home is actually in the upper intertidal region. Now it is in deep water far from home. Fortunately, the snail has a map given to it by its grandfather, who made the same journey and later documented it in the form of a scroll-map. The snail's adventures with the many strange invertebrates it meets during the long crawl home is the ODYSSEY.


ANIMATION of the snail's odyssey © Thomas Carefoot 2024
map used by the snail in A SNAIL'S ODYSSEY

To navigate through the ODYSSEY:

  • Select a TOPIC from the menu at the top of the screen
  • OR: play the animation to the left
  • OR: follow the snail's ODYSSEY by CLICKING on any X-marked invertebrate on the map above

A SNAIL'S ODYSSEY is a scientific account of the biology of shallow-water, benthic-marine invertebrates on the west coast of North America. All major and some minor groups of invertebrates are included, but the representation is not meant to be complete. Intertidal, subtidal, and some supratidal species are included. There are 36 invertebrate groups represented in the ODYSSEY, and all save one are presented in two parts. The first part is a short cartoon animation; the second, a scientific account of that particular invertebrate group.

The ANIMATIONS are just for fun...skip them if you find them too silly. The RESEARCH STUDIES are the serious parts. They include synopses of scientific papers written about specific west-coast invertebrates, accompanied by illustrations. There are some 6000 scientific papers thus far synopsised in the ODYSSEY, with about 4000 photos, graphs, and other illustrations, and 200 video clips.

The AIM of the ODYSSEY is to provide comprehensive summaries of research studies done on the biology and ecology of west-coast, shallow-water benthic invertebrates to be used by university field-trip students and graduate students to generate ideas for research projects, and by students and faculty to access relevant scientific literature, including many older works.  Consider the ODYSSEY to be a gateway into the scientific literature on west-coast marine invertebrates. Because scientific research does not stop, the ODYSSEY is ongoing, and research papers continue to be added (but see 'boxed' note below).

While my INTENT has been to include summaries of as many papers as possible on the invertebrate groups represented in the ODYSSEY, exceptions are those:

  • strictly on taxonomy/classification or range extensions
  • primarily on fisheries/management or aquaculture or disease/parasites
  • minimally relevant to "whole-animal biology"
  • published in trade or technical journals
  • published as abstracts, theses, reviews, or conference proceedings

The geographical COVERAGE is primarily from Alaska to Baja California, with one or two submissions from South America (Chile).  Because a few west-coast species have cosmopolitan distributions throughout boreal-arctic areas of the world, a few research articles done on these species in Atlantic regions are also included.

Another INTENT of the ODYSSEY is to make my large collection of photographs and videos available for use by students and researchers. Thus, feel free to use any of the photos or other images in the ODYSSEY for your own projects, as long as the photos are my own. If there is a Photo "courtesy of..." indicated, then you must contact the person whose photo it is for permission. If it seems clear that I've used a photograph from a research paper being dealt with, then these same permission rules may apply.

The COMPLEXITY OF SCIENCE in the ODYSSEY ranges from undergraduate-university to senior-research level. Unlike a book, however, where topics progress from introductory to advanced, the ODYSSEY jumps right into a subject. However, I have done my best to present the various Research Studies in an orderly way, most often chronologically, with most accompanied by at least some introductory material. I have striven for accuracy throughout the work, but I know that there are mistakes and omissions. Contact me at tcarefoot@shaw.ca if I've missed or misinterpreted a study, omitted an important species, given your article short shrift, or really anything at all, and I'll do my best to fix it. Better still, simply re-write what I've done and send it to me for replacement. This will make the ODYSSEY truly interactive.

NAVIGATE through the ODYSSEY via DROP-DOWN MENUS or via the snail's MAP, which appears at the start of each invertebrate group. Some words in the text may be highlighted:

                 NOTE these explanatory footnotes are located below the text. They are most often word definitions, details of experimental methodology, or clarifications of taxonomy and classification

With the WEBSITE EXPERTISE of Cindy Young at MOUSETRAP MULTIMEDIA, a searchable index is available that includes species, authors, and subject-matter entries.  Cindy has recently revised the entire site, so that it can now be managed via web-based forms without any knowledge of coding and website mark-up language.   Cindy Young was the driving force some three decades ago for me to convert an idea into a functioning entity, and she has invested much time and effort into establishing and maintaining its coherence.  Her enthusiasm and dedication have remained rock-solid over these many years, and I am so grateful to her for providing me with such an interesting and stimulating retirement hobby.

This site is being hosted on a temporary server, but at some point it will need a PERMANENT HOME. If you are a Director of a west-coast marine laboratory, and can see the ODYSSEY fitting in with your future, then please contact me and we can discuss it.
- Tom Carefoot


The BAMFIELD MARINE SCIENCES CENTRE is a world-class teaching and research facility located on the outer west coast of Vancouver Island. Most of the underwater photographs in the ODYSSEY were taken in the island archipelago surrounding the CENTRE. The research, teaching, and SCUBA facilities at BMSC are excellent.


E-Fauna BC and its counterpart E-Flora BC are excellent sources of information on biodiversity in British Columbia. Sponsored by The Lab for Advanced Spatial Analysis at the University of B.C., the sites plan ultimately to provide distributional and biological data, and photographs for ALL animals and plants found in the province.


The Pacific Northwest Shell Club is a non-profit organisation based in Seattle, Washington that provides an excellent site for identifying local west-coast molluscs of every kind. The Club holds monthly meetings in the Seattle area and provides annual scholarships for promotion of the study of malacology.


Invertebrates of the Salish Sea is a website sponsored by the Rosario Beach Marine Laboratory of Walla Walla University, Washington. The site offers a vast collection of photographs of invertebrate marine life in the waters of Puget Sound, Strait of Juan de Fuca, and Rosario Straits with descriptions of the organisms' biology and ecology.

The last two sites have generously provided photographs for inclusion in the ODYSSEY