Trochaclis attenuata
by Ken Arneson
2013-05-14 15:53

There is nothing so utterly ordinary in the fossil record of the planet Earth as the shell of a sea snail. They first appeared at the end of the Cambrian era almost 500 million years ago — nearly twice as long ago as the first dinosaur. In terms of number of different species, the Gastropod class to which sea snails belong are the second-most diverse class of animals on the planet behind insects. Unlike insects however, most sea snails make hard, mineralized shells which survive rather well in the fossil record. Therefore, they have left a long, long trail of their long, long existence everywhere around the globe.

Today’s Random Wikipedia Wheel of Fortune sends to examine one of these sea snails, the Trochaclis attenuata. The Trochaclis attenuata lives off the coast of New Zealand.

Here’s a picture of the shell of the Trochaclis attenuata. It looks rather big in this image, but note the scale on the bottom left; if the scale is to be believed, the Trochaclis attenuata isn’t much larger than an ordinary grain of sand.

Trochaclis Attenuata

The species was identified by a New Zealand researcher named Bruce Marshall, who registered the name of this species in 1995.

* * *

Ok, but so what? What is the point of thinking about the Trochaclis Attenuata?

* * *

Try to estimate how many sea snails there are in all the world’s oceans right this very minute. Consider that some of these sea snails are the size of a grain of sand. What’s your guess? 1 million? 10 million? 100 million? 1 billion? 10 billion? 100 billion?

Now imagine that number, whatever it is, multiplied over 500 million years. That’s how many sea snails have lived in the history of the earth.

* * *

Now imagine the latest human scandal that’s buzzing around your news feed right now. Whatever has you all upset and angry, hold that outrage in your mind for just a second.

Now place that outrage right next to your count of sea snails in the history of the earth.

Think about how, of all the sea snails in all the seas in all the history of the world, not one, not a single one, cares about your scandal.

Trilobites dominated the planet for 200 million years or so, then they went extinct. Sea snails lived on.

Then dinosaurs dominated the planet for another 200 million years or so, then they went extinct. Sea snails lived on.

67 million years later, you and your fellow awesome humans and whatever you’re outraged about arrived on the scene. 133 million years from now, who knows what will become of your fellow humans, but your outrage will certainly be extinct.

And the sea snails, the boring, ordinary little sea snails, will live on.

Photo reproduced courtesy of Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license.
This is Ken Arneson's blog about baseball, brains, art, science, technology, philosophy, poetry, politics and whatever else Ken Arneson feels like writing about
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