Snailing and Hearing Experiment: The First Day In, Much Learned

Thurs, Aug 18:

Success on finding more snails! Avery (Drew‘s younger sister) and I ventured to the location I’d found the first four (after miles of me looking elsewhere else) around coordinates 40.246024, -76.864287 on the right side of the Capital Area Greenbelt, just passed the Train Observation bridge and before the Dauphin County Recycling Center. We took in 8 adults (making 12 total with the ones I already have) and 6 youths (making me consider using 5 and one control). I have opted not to use the youths as they will be a little much for me to handle and also keep up with life’s other obligations. Avery wants them though and there are two I’ll keep as pets as well. It was an exciting day!!! We actually took a few more because it was hard to choose, but they went back outside. The other excitement was discovering a near newborn in the dirt we added to the bin we took them home in. Avery has named it Stowaway and will be keeping it to watch it grow into adulthood.

Tues, Aug 23rd:

By noon, all snails were in their respective bins!

I also had an interesting surprise this morning. While sitting on my “bed” (we’re still on the futon in the living room since the bedroom ceiling fell in), I saw a snail shell. I have a few lying about so no big deal. But, it was upside down, connected to a plate. This was sorta a big deal. I had a rogue snail. Of the empty shells Avery and I had collected last week, one seemed to have something in it, it was just way back, and it never opened up in the time it took to get back, water them all, and set up a habitat; so, we assumed it was dead. Nope. Wrong. There it was, having climbed from the spot under the futon we’d left it (dropped it), up a cabinet and onto a sushi plate (also in the living room because of no kitchen…). It also seems to be a very hardy snail. So, I’ll have one extra snail in the experiment. 11 test subjects, 2 controls.

This evening, I took photos, weighed, and measured a bunch before it got too dark.

Wed, Aug 24th:

Woke up at 8AM and started where I left off last night. The photographs are much better in the morning so I think I’ll be repeating the photography for the first slew tomorrow morning.

I finally found a clue about how much to feed the suckers in Heliciculture. I’ll be staying on the low end, so 10% of body weight tops (I’m assuming wet body weight). This is a tremendously small amount of food considering my smallest snail is 1.88g and the biggest is a mere 3.25g. I explored how much food this looks like and it’s not much. Less than a thumbnail worth of carrot all day for the biggest snail, Muscles. The trouble with this number is that it’s based on body weight percentage, not calories. Other sites recording how much to feed also went by weight rather than calories. As it won’t be perfect, I’ll be doing a variety of food.

Thurs, Aug 25th:

I decided to reweigh the snails and get better photos of the ones I’d done at night in the morning. Glad I did. Discovered that many of their weights had changed dramatically. I decided to reweigh my Aug 24 morning bunch that evening and I’d use the lowest of the weights for each. None of the snails lowest measured weights were over 3g.

Tasks complete.

Fri, Aug 26th:

I woke up early (early = before 8AM) and removed their food, scrubbed the rocks, and washed out all the bins, and left them with ample moisture. At 7:30AM, the door was opened so light could come in. At 8AM, they have all begun their fast and the light was on. I will turn off the light and close the door tonight at 8PM.

About ten minutes later, I decided to remove all the rocks. Although it was a nice idea, my budget did not allow for plastic “rocks” and I was neither sure I could remove all “food” from the natural rocks nor that the variety of rocks didn’t offer different nutritional content in and of themselves. Also, the snails tend to hang out inverted on the tops or sides of their bins and not on the rocks. Although I may perceive it as an immensely boring life, I have found no evidence that this will negatively affect them. They’ll likely be fine for the duration of the testing.

I created “profiles” for each of the snails with metrics, photos, and basic descriptions. How I will post these, I’m not sure yet.

Sat, Aug 27th:

Woke up early again to weigh out and separate food (part for the morning and part for the evening). Door opened quarter after 8AM. During the time before the light went on, I made their labels with names and wet weights. Light went on around 8:45AM.

Wall of snail bins

Learning runs began at 9:05AM – 130hz, left side of maze. Food: carrot (which they all seem to like)



Appx half of exactly .29g of food reward dropped at the left end of the maze.

Summary: I learned a lot during this little escapade. I made a ton of mistakes. It took him appx 26 min to get out of the maze where his food was. He went back to the beginning four times. He did not eat the food.


Started sound and placed Trails at the beginning of the maze.

After being placed at the beginning of the maze, he went forward to where the maze forked. He seemed to look around then turned back toward the beginning. Realizing that he could escape, I quickly used the toothbrush I’d intended to clean the maze with to hold down the entrance cover. This was likely confusing.  He tried to get out but found that he could not.

Next, he turned around and went directly down the right (his left) arm. I realized that should he exit, he would just climb all over the place and possibly figure out a roundabout way to the food, so I blocked it off with the spoon that I’d distributed the food with. This may also have been confusing.

Then, before he even tried to escape around the spoon, he turned around and went back to the beginning and stuck his head and foot out again but could not get out due to the size of his shell. He turned around but did not go all the way to the fork before turning around and trying again, this time seeming to try a little harder as he reached his head and foot out further, seeming to stretch out to pull his shell through. Once again, he did not succeed in exiting through the entrance.

Lastly, he went back down the maze and took the left side (his right) directly and exited out that side. He did not go toward the food though. He just went out, climbing to the side wall, over and up, in the opposite direction of the food, completely ignoring it. I took him and placed him on the lid and put the food directly in front of him and he sniffed at it but did not eat it, just went away and continued exploring.

It does not seem like he was interested in his food reward, but he did not pause during the maze and seemed to primarily seek out freedom, judging by the number of times he attempted to leave where he entered and where he could get some of his body out. He also could have gotten some of his body out at the fork, but he didn’t try that. He only tried the right side of the entrance every time.

Notes: This makes me wonder if he was seeking out fresh air and/or the ability to continue moving? It’s hard to say. The fact that he kept trying to leave where he entered implies that either because he knew that way had been open before, he might be able to get out that way. He tried the right fork before I covered it and only went a little further but not the whole way before he turned around.

Obviously, I need to fix the maze as there are at least two flaws. 1.  I need to make the entrance such that I don’t need to manually hold it down to keep them from leaving that way. 2. I need to block off the side that has no food or freedom (depending on which they care about is interesting, but less interesting than them simply choosing a direction, whether it’s based on fresh air, freedom, or food as a reward).

So, to handle any of the three options, during the learning period, I will leave the side open where the food reward is. If they can sense the frequency coming from the speakers, they will associate whatever-it-is with that side.

Then, when the testing begins, I will have both sides closed off and offer no food or freedom until they choose a side in the maze.

I will have one more snail run the maze to see if the behavior is similar.

Yellow Belly

Summary: After 31.5min, I put an end to it. Yellow Belly did not complete the maze in that amount of time. He appeared to stop and eat/clean his shell.


I made sure Yellow Belly was awake, started the sound, them placed him at the beginning of the maze. He was a slow mover. This is not surprising as he’d just awakened where as Trails had already been moving about.

He went to the fork, began to go back to the entrance but did not go the whole way, then went back into the right side (his left) of the maze. He went to the end until his eye tentacle touched the spoon and retracted. Then he went back to the beginning and attempted to get out the bottom of the cover I realized I wasn’t holding down all the way. He could not get his shell through.

Next, he went back, circled, then went to the right again until his eye bumped the plastic then went back, then back to the plastic until his eye bumped, then went back, turned around, then seemed to turn around again then just stopped.

Minutes went by and I wondered if he’d gone to sleep, but could still just barely see his tentacles moving about. I looked in that side’s opening (I can only see where they are and few details from above because the maze is frosted). It appeared that he was either cleaning or eating off his shell. He’d been doing this for minutes it seems.

I ended the test, took him out, and put him by the carrot which he immediately pulled to him and began eating. He did not eat all of it, but just a few “bites” then went about.

Notes: Due to the fact that he seemed to be eating his own shell, I thought I should wash them better so that they wouldn’t resort to that behavior (if that is what he was doing; judging by the ferocity with which he took to that carrot, it seems likely).

Alterations to be made:

Due to these blaring issues, I must suspend the training to fix them over the weekend. They will continue to have reduced food as I’ll give them half the amount today and let them into the open air to be around each other and move about. I’ll probably take more pictures. Then, I’ll rinse their bins, then wash their shells before putting them back in their bins. Tomorrow, they’ll fast again and stay in isolation.

Monday, I’ll begin again.



Image taken outside, in natural light.

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