Snail Habitats and Introducing the First Contributors

It has begun. My life is in wild disorder but at least I have a stable location where I can practice science. And today, I collected the first four contributors to the Finding Out if Snails Can Hear experiment.

After  getting a ton of rain a few days ago, I ended up taking a 2.5 mile walk in the morning along the Harrisburg Greenbelt. It was a joyful day. There were snails everywhere.

Not wanting to take all the snails from that ecosystem, I selected four.

Four Cepaea nemoralis (also known as wood snails or grove snails) in Anita’s hand. Note the yellowyness of those hands. Also note four little lives sliming all over each other. Every one of them tasted that hand.

If you know your snails, you will know that these snails are not the intended species, Helix aspersa. There has been a notable lack of them around. However, these lovely little guys, Cepaea nemoralis, are in the same family as Helix aspersa, plentiful, and already widely used in research so background information will be easier to come by. They’re considered an invasive species (no environmental guilt about scooping them up, I suppose) although they tend not to be too much of a pest in gardens.

In light of this information, Cepaea nemoralis are now the species I will use in this experiment. Once I collect all I intend to use, I will take individual photos of each, their measurements and general descriptions, names (yes, I’ll be naming them – it’ll be easy as their shells are so varied, so they’ll be easy to remember), and potentially other factors of relevance. All the information will be posted.

While they are waiting, I have made them a habitat in a plastic bin to help acclimate them to captivity. The habitat includes standard stuff (all collected outside): different types of dirt, rocks for hiding, live plants, and a (cleaned) bottle half full of water in case they want it for drinking, bathing, or sitting in. They are spritzed with water daily and fed a variety of produce including fruits, vegetables, egg shells (for calcium), and other acceptable foods. They will probably be eating much off of the bark and rocks as they tend to eat dead things more so than live produce, but they’ll have options. I am keeping them together as snails appear to be more social animals, forming colonies (though this is highly debated). The risk of doing so is population increase as they are all hermaphroditic and any of them can reproduce with any other. Their environment will change pretty drastically in individual containers where the experiment will take place. But for now, they’ll live together in a space that somewhat resembles their natural environment.

First snail habitat

Temporary snail habitat. The visible land snail (and most adventurous so far) is named Smotchkkiss (I stole the name from here).

 

More information on Cepaea nemoralis can be found here.

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