main title for A SNAIL'S ODYSSEY
drawing of snail being tossed into the ocean at start of A SNAIL'S ODYSSEY

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. Both intertidal, subtidal, and some supratidal species are included. There are 36 invertebrate groups represented in the ODYSSEY, and all save one are presented in 2 parts. The first part is a short cartoon animation; the second, a scientific LEARNABOUT account of that particular invertebrate group. The animations are whimsical, and together tell the story of a snail's journey. 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.

The ANIMATIONS are just for fun...skip them if you find them too silly. The LEARNABOUT sections are the serious parts. They include synopses of scientific papers written about specific west-coast invertebrates, accompanied by illustrations. There are over 4800 scientific papers thus far synopsised in the ODYSSEY, with 3000 photos, 3500 graphs and other illustrations, and 200 video clips.

NOTE as of 2017, none of the major servers supports the plug-ins necessary to play the 36 animations or the Goose-barnacle legend production. This will require that each be converted to a compatible format, a job that is in progress as we speak. Only one thus far is operational: the CUP CORAL.

The AIM of the ODYSSEY is to provide comprehensive, up-to-date 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 as many older works as I can find. 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 I will continue to add research papers.

While my INTENT is to include summaries of ALL papers written by west-coast researchers 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
  • that are abstracts, theses, or reviews

The geographical COVERAGE is primarily from Alaska to southern California. 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 in the ODYSSEY for your own projects, as long as they are my own. If there is a "Photo courtesy of..." indicated in the text, then you must contact the person whose photo it is for permission. If a photograph is from a publication, then these same permission rules 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 each 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 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. If the ODYSSEY turns out to be useful for researchers, then a WICKIPEDIA form of contribution may ensure its future.

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 are highlighted:

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

With the technical expertise of MOUSETRAP MULTIMEDIA, I have completed a searchable index that includes species, authors, and subject-matter entries.

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


drawing of snail falling through the water column at start of A SNAIL'S ODYSSEY
drawing of snail dropping through the water column at start of A SNAIL'S ODYSSEY
drawing of snail dropping through the water column at start of A SNAIL'S ODYSSEY
drawing of snail sitting by sponge at start of A SNAIL'S ODYSSEY
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  photograph of Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre with admirerlogo of Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre
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.
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  E-Fauna iconE-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 British Columbia, the sites plan ultimately to provide distributional and biological data, and photographs for ALL animals and plants found in the province.
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  drawing of snail meeting an invertebrate on its ODYSSEY
© 2010 Thomas Carefoot

To navigate through the ODYSSEY:

Select a TOPIC from the menu at the top of the page

OR: play the animation: "START of ODYSSEY" by CLICKING ON the text below Left

OR: follow the snail's ODYSSEY by CLICKING on any X-marked invertebrate on the map at the Right

map used by the snail in A SNAIL'S ODYSSEY
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