Skip to main content
Image:

In March of 1846, a small snail was added to the British Museum’s natural history collection. It was collected in Egypt by naturalist Charles Lamb during his travels through the Middle East, where he found a great number of similar snails living in the desert. Glued to a board, specimen 46.3.25 went on display alongside hundreds of other shells. There it remained for the next four years, glanced over by thousands of visitors who wandered past its display case. Then one day, curator Dr William Baird noticed a strange smudge of dirt and slime in the display cabinet. On closer inspection, he was shocked to find that specimen 46.3.25 had replaced the silvery resin cap across the entrance to its shell, presumably after a brief peek at the outside world. Placing it in a bowl of tepid water, he revived the snail, and transferred it to a glass jar. Baird fed it on small scraps of cabbage, and noted that, now awakened, it had begun to repair some small damage to its shell. Specimen 46.3.25 lived for a further year before passing away in earnest.

Return back to top of the page