They’re not necessarily the types of creatures we pay too much attention to usually, and as a consequence their habits, nocturnal and otherwise have until now been shrouded in mystery…
However a new short film released today to coincide with a comprehensive report undertaken by the University of Exeter has captured the journeying habits of these gastropods.
The ‘Slime Watch’ report and documentary saw researchers track the nocturnal activity of 450 garden snails using LED lights UV paint and time lapse photography over the course of 72 hours, with some fascinating results.
The researchers, led by Dr Dave Hodgson, Associate Professor of Ecology at the University of Exeter found that snails will travel distances of up to 25 metres in a 24-hour period, and seek out areas of shelter, such as long grass, trees or objects, including dogs’ toys, left in the garden overnight. The four researchers from Exeter University also discovered that snails move in convoys, piggy-backing on the slime of other snails to conserve energy. It is thought that a snail could use up to 30 per cent of its energy in slime production alone.
The study was commissioned by the Be Lungworm Aware campaign as a resource for dog owners, whose pets are at risk from a potentially fatal parasite spread by slugs and snails, the lungworm Angiostrongylus vasorum. The parasite is contracted when dogs accidentally swallow even the smallest slugs or snails, which can be found in dog toys, puddles and long grass.
The Be Lungworm Aware campaign is calling on pet owners to be aware of the dangers of lungworm. The research shows that garden snails not only travel the length of the average English garden in a night, but often find shelter in shady areas. Luke Gamble is urging all pet owners to be more vigilant, making more of an effort to pick up toys in the garden so they are not left out overnight, regularly clean water bowls, always pick up dog poo and use a preventative medication. If pet owners have any concerns they should always speak to their vet.
So if you’ve ever been curious about what the snails get up to in your back garden now’s your chance to find out.