Snails & Music

I read a study last night informing me that music likely influences the cognitive abilities of snails. It also gave me some insight into how a snail experiment may be set up and habitats used.

The snails were Achatina flica, which is a land snail, but a much larger one that is not in the same family as the ones I’m considering for my experiment. I don’t think there would be much of a difference, but then again, it is possible that there would be a difference in reaction due to larger number of neurons, larger surface areas, or other slightly different equipment.

The test included acclimating a group of snails and testing their abilities in a T-maze, a problem-solving standard in many studies. Those who were deemed suitable were divided into a control group, a group exposed to a rock song, and a group exposed to a meditative piece. The snails were expected to figure out their way to food. What the study discovered was that on average, the snails exposed to music preformed observably better than the control. What was notable passed that was that the ones exposed to the meditative music performed observably better than those exposed to the rock. Regardless of what you’d like to take from the last sentence (the study sites a lot about differentiation between those who meditate and do not, which is worth a read on its own), the bigger take away for me is that snails appear to respond to music.

The study is clear about making a difference between snails being influenced by music and hearing it.

“Music is not perceived by snails as they do not have auditory features but based on this study music does cause an effect, the mechanism for which needs to be evaluated and is beyond the scope of this paper.”

I, of course, am wondering if “not perceived” is actually accurate, though I do not have the equipment to test what kind of “perception” may or may not be occurring neurologically.

“The mechanisms behind the enhanced cognitive effects post exposure to music is unknown but is surely related to vibrations created at different frequencies which have direct impact on the biochemical processes at a cellular level within the neural tissues.”

This speculation is interesting to me and may influence what I try with my snails. Perhaps with one group, I could try the same frequencies at different amplitudes to see if they respond differently (perhaps for a snail, more is not more?) and with a separate group, try different frequencies at the same amplitude and see if their is a difference. Thus, I would have three groups total: control, frequency differentiation, and amplitude differentiation.

In the article that is also the source of the featured image (which is not the type of snail the author refers to), the author shares information about another type of snail and her exploration of a song sang to coax snails from their shells.

There is also the myth of the singing snails of Hawai’i. Although there is no evidence that they ever sang, the snails themselves exist, and it lends itself to the curious about snails and their relationship to sound.

“Love to the water that is cold on the skin. The calling out of the voice of the land shell.” –name chant for Queen Kapi’olani


As far as setting up a habitat, I’m still uncertain. I would like for the habitat to be healthy for the animals for the duration of the experiment with them lacking nothing except the food needed to determine results. It seems as though the experiment discussed in this post made an attempt to care for the animals involved and I will use it as reference, but I will continue reading to ensure the habitats provided for the snails is optimal both for their health and the experiment.


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