The idiom “at a snail’s pace,” referring to excruciatingly slow speed, apparently may be giving snails some gross misrepresentation. Based on a recent study, snails are capable of exploring the length of a typical British garden in one night, and can reach a blistering top speed of one meter per hour, according to a new study. Scientists examined the behavior of 450 garden variety snails by recording their movements with the use of LED lights, UV paints and time-lapse photography. Not surprisingly, the study yielded some unexpectedly impressive images. It was observed that snails will travel distances of up to 25 meters within a 24-hour period. They do this as they seek sites for shelter, typically trees or objects, long grass, and even dogs’ toys, abandoned in the garden.
This experiment was conducted as part of an ongoing investigation into the transmission of lungworm from snails to dogs. A team of researchers from the Ecology department at the University of Exeter led by Dr. Dave Hodgson came up with the experiment, tracking the movement of snails at night. Lungworm infections can be fatal in dogs and no one is certain how the organisms transfer from snails to dogs, although the hypothesis is via unintentional ingestion. The potentially deadly parasite ostensibly spread by slugs and snails, is scientifically known as Angiostrongylus vasorum. The team of researchers also discovered that snails move in line, attaching themselves on the slime of other snails to conserve energy. It is surmised that a snail could use up to 30 per cent of its energy exclusively in slime production.
Dr Dave Hodgson, associate professor of ecology at the University, said,
“Until now no one has fully understood the habits of these fascinating creatures that we encounter in our gardens every day. 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.”
Prevention from lungworm infection in dogs is generally available and pet owners should consult their veterinarians for it.