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Biology

This snail is mainly nocturnal but will emerge after rain during the day. It moves by means of a muscular foot; the mucus secreted by the foot aids with movement and leaves a tell-tale track behind. They feed on a range of plant matter, and can be serious pests of gardens (4). This snail has a strong homing instinct, and spends the day, often in large groups, beneath stones and other structures. They hibernate through the winter in similar locations (5). Garden snails are hermaphrodites, meaning that one individual possesses both male and female reproductive organs; although they are able to self-fertilise, most snails mate with another snail (4). Reproduction takes place in early summer, and begins with pairing and courtship. After a period in which the members of the pair caress each other with their tentacles, each snail pierces the skin of its partner with a calcareous 'love dart', a spiny projection which is covered in mucus. The function of this love dart is unclear, but it is thought that the mucus may act to improve the survival of sperm. Mating then takes place; each snail inserts its penis into its partner at the same time (6). The snails separate, and the sperm is stored internally until the eggs are ripe. After the eggs have been fertilised, the snails dig pits in the soil in which to lay the eggs (5). Hatchlings have translucent, delicate shells (4). The garden snail is edible, and snail farming is currently a booming cottage industry in Britain. This species has also been used for centuries in traditional medicine, for example, broth made from the mucus was used to treat sore throats (7).

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Source: ARKive

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