UK

Snails' Top Speed Is Revealed In New Study

23/08/2013 09:42 BST | Updated 22/10/2013 10:12 BST
PA
A Grove Snail. The cepaea nemoralis is also known as brown-lipped snail and is a species of air-breathing land snail, a terrestrial pulmonate gastropod mollusk. It is one of the most common species of land snail in Europe.

The top speed of a snail is a sluggish one metre per hour, a new study has revealed.

But that pace allows them to explore the length of an average British garden in a single night.

Scientists examined the habits of 450 garden snails recording their movements using LED lights, UV paints and time-lapse photography.

This is the first time snails have been studied in this way, creating some unexpectedly spectacular images.

The findings revealed how snails will travel distances of up to 25 metres in a 24-hour period, and seek out areas of shelter, such as long grass, trees or objects, including dogs' toys, left in the garden overnight.

snail

Why do snails do this?

The four researchers from Exeter University also discovered that snails move in convoys, piggy-backing on the slime of other snails to conserve energy.

It is thought that a snail could use up to 30% of its energy in slime production alone, the study found.

The study was commissioned as a resource for dog owners, whose pets are at risk from a potentially fatal parasite spread by slugs and snails, the lungworm Angiostrongylus vasorum.

The parasite is contracted when dogs accidentally swallow even the smallest slugs or snails, which can be found in dog toys, puddles and long grass.

Dr Dave Hodgson, associate professor of ecology at the University of Exeter, led the research.

"Until now no one has fully understood the habits of these fascinating creatures that we encounter in our gardens every day," he said.

"In this research we wanted to solve the mystery surrounding gastropod activity and provide a resource for gardeners and pet owners wanting to better safeguard the health of their plants and pets.

"By learning more about the behaviour of snails, we hope dog owners can better understand they ways in which dogs can encounter snails on a day-to-day basis and the lungworm risk they present, taking the appropriate precautions."