Snails & Hearing: 1st Full Days

Monday the experiment restarted!

I made some adjustments to the maze. You know those fancy little jars at fancy places that jelly and and whatnot come in? Well, last time I was somewhere fancy and they had those, I kept them, I didn’t really know why other than that they seemed like a sad thing to waste. So glad I did. They fit perfectly to cap the ends of the maze.

I start the snails in the entrance cap, have the “wrong” side capped, and then the other side has it’s cap sitting next to the exit, face down, so the snails have the option to climb on it. After seeing the snails try to fold themselves over and fail to get out. So, on the “correct” side there is also a little rock taped to the top. And, of course, their food reward. Whatever the reason, be it fresh air, or freedom, or food, there is incentive to go the “correct” way.

The maze also has a more enclosed fork. There is ventilation, but no spaces through which they could escape.

I am also setting everything up with my hands. This is adding more variables in one way, but also reducing some of the randomness of tossing food and such in with a spoon.

They are only being tested once a day as I’m giving them up to 30 minutes to complete the maze and I can’t spend more time than that (I’m having to scrape at my days just to do that). Therefore, the training period will go on until Monday. Tuesday, we’ll start the actual testing.

On each side of the maze near the fork, there are stereo speakers playing the sound. There is also static. Additionally, there are random sounds during the day and the allotted experiment time that are outside of my control. And it’s hard to be sure that, if snails can hear, that the other snails can’t hear the noise.

With all these changes, I still think it’s possible to derive some information. However, if I repeat this experiment some day, I will find a way to afford to make a more soundproof space, get a proper y-maze that will be less hacky and more consistent all the way through (plus, probably easier to clean), get some gloves and proper tools with which to do setup. Get some wireless speakers so that they aren’t subject to slight movements when I accidentally move my computer. There would be plenty to change and improve.

y maze new
Improved y-maze.


But, you’re probably wonder how the little guys are doing!

Note: Snails are hermaphroditic and to more appropriately label them, I have chosen Spivak pronouns. I hope I am doing it right.


130hz, left side goal (from researcher’s point of view; from the entrance, it’d be right), and a red leaf lettuce reward.

It was a tough first day in that it was 9.5 hrs long for me. Not exactly sustainable, but they were just learning, so I was not discouraged.

5 out of 13 snails completed the maze successfully. Muscles, Isabella, Dr. Strange, Backward Spiral, and Trails. I had not yet taped the rock on to help them go over the top (as they are high dwelling beings). Had I, I suspected that Yellow Belly, Big Yellow, and Dr. Quinary would have also made it as they were all but the shell out of the maze, just couldn’t get up on the top where they tried to go.

Trails and Lettuce
Trails enjoying eir reward!

For the (completely) raw data, filled with all my agony and joy, see the PDFs attached (I have not even edited them, and I do a combination of talking to myself, an imaginary audience, or the snails.. they’re really, really raw – and it’s evidence that I really, really need a camcorder for the sake of both my sanity and to help remove bias). SnailNotes1-Aug27-29


A much better day (for me and the success of the snails).

220hz, right side goal, with a cucumber reward.

7 of the 13 made it successfully: Muscles, Dr. Strange, Backward Spiral, Trails, Smotchkkiss, Dr. Quinary, and Yellow Belly. Isabella was close as was Big Yellow. The other four though, were giving me strong doubts. Twice in a row, Broken Shell had gone and stayed on the undesired side. Abigail would not pass the speakers either day. Rogue (who I worry about as E seems underweight), would not go passed the speakers Monday and wouldn’t even leave the cap today. On Monday, Gary had slowly made it to the speakers then eventually (and slowly) went back to the entrance. Tuesday, he made it to the fork but no further. I decided to test each one again on Wednesday, but depending on how they did, I will considered removing them from the experiment. They are all great snails, but that doesn’t mean they make great subjects (as I know all too well). Raw data: SnailNotes2-Aug30

Also, I found out that, as far as we know, snails cannot see color. This is a thing I’d like to look into further which, I think, would help me understand the inner workings of the eye.


220hz, right side goal, with a strawberry reward.

Only 5 snails made it successfully: Muscles, Backward Spiral, Isabella, Big Yellow, and, the most exciting surprise, Rogue. I had been almost sure e would be removed today, but e didn’t just improve, e did the whole thing beautifully. Gary also improved, making it to the end of the correct side, just not fully exiting, but it was enough that e will be staying in the experiment. Abigail and Broken Shell made no progress so have been removed from the experiment (and once they were retired to the terrarium, they came alive! They just weren’t cut out for the experiment).

The rest though, especially Trails, bothered me that they didn’t finish. I was concerned that my cleanings of the maze weren’t good enough and they were following mucus trails rather than going toward the reward. But more likely, the ones toward the end of the day (after about 11a) seem to be generally more sluggish. Keeping this in mind, I’ll be starting early tomorrow and give the maze a much more thorough cleaning tonight. I need the ones that go into the actual testing to make it consistently to the finish, so I will do my best to make the conditions optimal.

At this point, only Muscles and Backward Spiral have completed the maze all days. A few others have done 2 out of 3, but I’d like more than that going into the test. Granted, there will be some statistics done, so even if some mess up despite whether or not they can hear, there still may be evidence to derive, but I’m just not sure I want to move forward with snails that haven’t completed the maze at least the last three days leading up to the testing.

Raw data: SnailNotes3-Aug31

Thursday we move forward with 11 snails…


Today was a day of success, I think.

130hz, left side goal, with a soaked oat reward.

The reward was a hit, I think. Each day they either get hungrier or I’m giving them better stuff. Most of them still aren’t going for the food, but some eat hungrily after I put them back in their bins.

6 snails completed the maze in the morning. Yay for Smotchkkiss, Big Yellow, Isabella, Dr. Strange, Dr. Quinary, and Trails!!!

There was a monumental issue while testing Backward Spiral. E was on eir way down the maze and began to go the correct way to get out of the maze when a lot of things happened at once: A woman’s shrill voice sounded from downstairs and also a girl’s voice (we’re testing 130hz, in the male range, so that could have been confusing), and even if they can’t hear, there were also two people stomping up and down the stairs and the sound of the door slamming. Backward Spiral stopped moving and I could notably feel all of these things with my body and not just my ears, except the voices. I was shook up on my own, and I can only imagine what a tiny creature would have made of it. What I saw was eir retract and then start moving the other direction, into the enclosed space. I can’t be sure, but it seems like e chose a sense of safety over freedom. I was furious.

As a result of this as well as the fact that it was after 11a which seems to be when they all get sluggish (though e wasn’t terribly sluggish (slow, sure); that was a quick turn out of where e was going and the other direction) and I’d decided to stop testing at 11AM and start testing the rest after 6PM (they seem to be crepuscular animals which means that they’re move lively in the hours around dawn and hours around dusk), I decided I would retest Backward Spiral that evening and also test Muscles then.

Neither of them completed the maze. 😦

So, 6 snails were successful today. Although Gary has not exited the maze, e has gone to the end and played there for the past two days. In the actual testing, this will be sufficient, so I’m keeping em in. Of those that did exit today, they will also be staying as well as Muscles and Backward Spiral, though I am now confused.

Rogue and Yellow Belly will be considered for removal tomorrow. Yellow Belly has not completed the maze for the passed two days and Rogue did not venture passed the speakers, once again. I don’t know what happened yesterday, but I think it was a fluke. If e does not repeat that action tomorrow, e will be removed. If Yellow Belly goes a third day without success, e will also be removed. I need consistency and proof that they’re learning in a way that is meaningful to the experiment. It’s possible that they either find the vibrations soothing so want to stay near the speakers, or their motivation is different than the other snails; but, I need them to go to the correct end of the maze to make visible to me that they are possibly associating the sound with the desired endpoint. That way, when the training is over and actual testing begins, there may be more significant evidence one way or the other in terms of differentiating frequencies.

Raw data: SnailNotes4-Sept1


So Far

We continue forward. The training period is expected to end on Monday, then, the testing begins.


Images were taken by me, on on my Samsung S3, like all the snail photos. Featured image is of Muscles (in the back), Big Yellow, Isabella, Dr. Strange, Dr. Quinary, and Trails.



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