Is It A Bird? Is It A Bug?

New Zealand has a history of strange elections. That time the Prime Minister called a snap election while pickled to the gills, for example. The time when two parties who respectively got the support of about 1/15 and 1/21 of the enrolled voters got into government.

And yet, despite this history of oddity, I was nonetheless Yours Truly Baffled last night when I read in the news that seventh place in Bug of the Year went to Powelliphanta superba.

Which is a snail.

A large dark snail shell lying among small plants.
P. superba staying in and having an identity crisis.

This is even wackier than a bat being voted Bird of the Year. Birds have wings, bats have wings. Bugs are the Things With Many Legs, snails are…(checks notes) legless. So legless, in fact, that they’re gastropods, i.e. the Things Which March On Their Stomachs.

(On which note, armies are technically gastropods. But then, snails are apparently bugs! A bat won Bird of the Year! If you think about it, the gastropoddity of armies is the only part of all this which really makes any sense.)

I suppose it could be argued that bugs have antennae, and snails have – well, if not antennae exactly, at least tentacular eye thingummies which look like antennae. But there were also a couple of spiders running for Bug of the Year (turns out more legs doesn’t help with the running – they finished halfway down the pack), and spiders don’t have antennae, so clearly Bughood does not rest on the question of whether you have long wavy face parts.

A spider eating an insect. The insect is upside down, so its legs are sticking up by the spider's face.
Those aren’t antennae…

However!! As The Entomological Society of New Zealand are the experts on who does and does not qualify for Bughood, we should perhaps accept their extension of the Umbrella of Bughood over giant snails. But even if we do so, further questions inevitably arise (not least from The Etymological Society of New Zealand, were such an organization to exist).

The chief among these questions, as I see it, is this: If Powelliphanta superba is a bug, why didn’t it win? It’s called the Superb Giant Land Snail! How many of the other contenders for Bug of the Year are officially superb? As many as the legs on a snail, that’s how many. There are three other Giants, one Minute, one Globular, and one Hobbit, as well as one that still only came fifth, despite Praying. But only one Superb.

Furthermore, the subspecies Powelliphanta superba superba is doubly superb, and yet it is in Serious Decline – not to mention the four singly superb subspecies are all Nationally Threatened. Could this be due to jealousy of their superbity? Regardless of the cause, it is clear that something must be done.

illustration of a smiling and blushing snail with hearts floating round its head

I therefore call upon all right-thinking Kiwis, John Oliver, etc, to do their bit and see to it that Powelliphanta superba wins Bird of the Year 2024. After all, it lays eggs and eats worms, and is therefore clearly a bird.

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