Apart from party animals, there are also some peculiar real animals living on our campus. One even has a conservation area especially created for it in Ylistönrinne.
Life in the detritus
One of them is definitely not a party animal. It’s an endangered mollusc species that leads a very calm and easy-going lifestyle. This cigar-shaped, brown 1,5 cm long creature, known by its common name as “craven door snail” (Clausilia dubia in Latin, hienouurresulkukotilo in Finnish), lives in the grove forest of Ylistönrinne where a conservation area has been especially created for it. The area is between the Ylistönrinne campus area and the social science building of Ylistönmäki, and the stairs that lead to the Y33 building go straight through it.
Our snail buddy is very picky about where to stay, and Ylistönrinne is the only area where it’s known to live in Finland. It’s a mysterious creature and nobody really knows
where it came from – one theory is that it might have immigrated on the aspen trunks brought to a match factory which used to operate in Jyväskylä. It is more common in Central Europe, especially in the Alps.
The snail doesn’t really make a fuss about itself and mostly hangs out in the detritus, the part of forest floor with decomposing leaves, branches and other vegetative stuff. A very shy character, it only dares make its way out in very particular circumstances when the air is humid, on a rainy summer evening for example. Then it might climb up the base of an aspen tree for some aerobics exercise – which means sticking out from the trunk.
To fill up its snail belly it grates decomposing vegetative material out of stones and tree trunks.
In the winter our little mollusc friend stays in hibernation, dug as deep as it can in the detritus under the snow. The temperature in the snow layer stays around zero degrees Celsius even if the temperature outside drops under -30.
A flying cutie
If you’re lucky enough, you might have the chance to spot a much cuter and furrier animal on the main campus in Seminaarinmäki. The flying squirrel (Pteromys volans) glides, rather than flies, up to 100 metre distances from a tree to another with the help of wing-like flaps of skin. It has large black eyes and it builds its nest mostly in the
holes of trees. It resembles students in that it’s mostly active by night and late in the evening. That’s why it’s more common to see its orange-yellow droppings than the
Northern taiga dweller itself.
There’s no up-to-date information about the amount of flying squirrels on the campus area but the Environment protection planner Heikki Sihvonen at the City of Jyväskylä estimates that a permanent population exists around the campus, in annually varying numbers. In 2009 there was a strong population in the area between the swimming hall, the Liikunta (L) building and the stadiums of Hippos.
Another area where the flying squirrel is known to be moving around is between the main building C and the library. In May 2009 the university staff saved a baby flying squirrel that was found near the administrative building and had probably fallen off its nest. It’s surprising that the flying squirrel has kept up in such urban circumstances. All in all, it has adapted well to the challenges of life on campus.
Sources: Lecturer Jari Haimi, the Department of Biological and Environmental Science, University of Jyväskylä, Environment protection planner Heikki Sihvonen, City of Jyväskylä.
Picture of the flying squirrel: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pteromys_volans.jpg