This time, the novelties are divided into several parts, because as a biologist, I could not help but write a little more about the peculiarities of the depicted animals, especially for these stamps, due to the beautiful new definitive stamp series. The die-hard philatelists may forgive me for this……
The Samina Valley is a valley in the mountainous region of Liechtenstein (950-1300 m above sea level) and in the neighbouring Vorarlberg (municipality of Frastanz), through which the Samina River flows. The new self-adhesive definitive stamps of Liechtensteinische Post, designed by Christine Böhmwalder, are dedicated to special animals from this wild and romantic valley. The illustrations resemble sketches from old textbooks and show either details of the animal species depicted or their stages of development. On the highest-value stamp, an error has crept in, which might make the stamp interesting for collectors someday….. (see below).
The Alpine salamander (Salamandra atra) is shown on the lowest value (CHF 0.90). It is a black-coloured, land-dwelling species of caudate amphibians. An outstanding feature of this species is its reproduction. It reproduces viviparously, i.e. the female gives birth to live young. She herself is up to between 12- 15 cm long, the newborns 4 cm. Only one fertilized egg develops in the mother per uterus. The embryo that hatches from the egg case actively feeds on the remaining eggs as soon as it is anatomically able to do so. The larvae possess large, red gills – comparable to other caudate larvae growing up freely in the water – but they regress and replace them with lungs before the birth process. As the only Central European amphibian, the alpine salamander can therefore exist independently of surface waters – an adaptation to the often water-poor living conditions in the high mountains. In total, the gestation period is about 2 years long. It is thought that at higher altitudes this can be up to 5 years or even longer. Thus, the alpine salamander may have the longest gestation period of all vertebrates. This long reproduction time is only possible because it has very few predators. This is due to the secretion of poisonous skin secretion. They also go into a threatening posture where they raise their head and bend it backwards. A posture that can also be seen on the stamp.
The next value level (CHF 1.10) shows the gravel bank ant – Formica selysi. It is also an endangered species and lives – as its name suggests – on rivers, on gravel banks. But what do these ants do when the gravel bank is flooded? They build a raft – a raft of living ants. This is how they evacuate their entire colony. On this raft, each ant has its fixed place – which it remembers even in a second emergency. The animals interlock with their hind legs and mouthparts. In the middle of several layers comes the queen and if there is brood it comes to the very bottom because it has a higher buoyancy. Like this, the whole colony floats to the safe dry shore.
On the next value level (CHF 1.80) is the bark shrike (Ceruchus chrysomelinus). The species is the only representative of its genus in Central Europe and also belongs to the highly endangered species here. The species exhibits a pronounced sexual dimorphism, which is nicely shown on the stamp. The larvae develop mainly in red rotten dead wood of firs and spruces, more rarely also of pines, beeches and birches.
And last but not least there is the rock snail (Chilostoma cingulatum) shown on the value CHF 2,30. It also belongs to the endangered species. The flat shell with the dark brown band is nicely depicted. During mating, these animals – like their relatives the Roman snails – shoot one or more love arrows. These arrows (which can be up to 1 cm long) are formed in an arrow sac in sexually mature animals and are fired when the body of one snail touches the genital pore of the other snail.
Before mating, the mating partners attempt to “shoot” one (or more) arrow into the other snail. There is no organ that receives the arrow; this process is more akin to a sting or an arrow or flechette shot. The arrow does not fly through the air to reach its target but is “fired” as a contact shot. Only afterwards the actual mating – i.e. the sperm exchange – takes place independently of the firing of the love arrow. Our anthropocentric view of the world has long fueled the theory that the shooting and penetration of the love dart into the partner serves “sexual” stimulation. However, it is now known that this is not so. This evolutionarily old behaviour in some snail species aims to alter the reproductive system of the sperm recipient (partner) by a hormone present on the love dart. This hormone closes the digestive organ of sperm in the snail and opens the copulatory channel – which leads to the sperm reservoir. So a trick of nature to increase the chances of paternity…..
And where is the mistake now you will ask yourself. It lies in the Latin name of the snail. This is Chilostoma cingulatum and not singulatum. A mistake, which is actually negligible because of the really beautiful series.
Edition – Samina Valley Fauna
- CHF 0.90 Alpine salamander
- CHF 1.10 Gravel bank ant
- CHF 1.80 Bark shrike
- CHF 2.30 Rock snail
- Stamp size 32 x 38 mm
- Perforation 12 ½ x 12 ¼
- Sheet format 146 x 208 mm
- Design Christine Böhmwalder, Götzis
- Printing Offset 4-color CMYK
- Gutenberg AG, Schaan
- Paper stamp paper FSC 110 g/m2,
- self-adhesive (water-soluble)
- definitive stamps