The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating (2)

I heard it. Yesterday, I finally heard it – the sound of a snail eating. Those with sharper ears than I now have might have heard it sooner. However, yesterday evening I could definitely hear the sound of a snail’s radula scraping.

The snails (there are now two) have grown enormously since September, when I first wrote about them here: https://ripplesinthewind.wordpress.com/2014/09/17/time-will-tell/ and here: https://ripplesinthewind.wordpress.com/2014/09/24/snail-adventures/ Hence why I can now hear them eating. Back in September, their shells were about 4-5 mm across:

IMAG0010s

By the middle of October, they were about 1cm across:

IMAG0108s

Ollie

Jack

Jack

At the end of October, they were about 1.5 cm across:

IMAG0139s

And they are now a good 2cm across:

IMAG0176s

The difference can easily be seen when their size is compared with that of the rock in the background.

As they have grown, their shells have also become thicker and stronger. They were extremely fragile at the beginning, as I found out when I accidentally broke one of the baby snails whilst attempting to extricate it from its hiding place in the kitchen. From time to time, I have seen them rasping at the sea-shell water bowl I put in their box. Similarly, the last piece of egg shell I put in the terrarium completely disintegrated, so I think that must have been at least partly responsible for their rapid growth. This rather blows the theory that broken egg shells will deter snails from eating garden produce. I think not! If anything, it will simply make them grow bigger!

Ollie’s shell was always more brightly patterned than Jack’s, but the differences are really obvious now:

Jack

Jack

Ollie

Ollie

Snail shells grow as the snail adds more shell on to the opening, hence slowly increasing the number of turns to the spiral. If you look closely on the last picture above, you can see the line near the centre of the spiral marking the original size of the shell. As you can see, there’s been a massive change in just two months. (Gardeners be warned!)

Since snails don’t move very fast and are inactive a lot of the time, it’s tempting to think that they are unexciting creatures that don’t do very much. However, it must take huge amounts of energy to create all that new shell. It reminds me of the weeks and months I spent lying in bed when I was first ill with the ME/CFS 13 years ago. At the time, it felt like nothing much was happening. However, looking back, it must have been or I wouldn’t be where I am now.

Meanwhile, Ollie and Jack are rapidly outgrowing their (very small) terrarium, so I have been considering returning them to the wild. However, I understand that snails hibernate in cold weather, so instead I have moved them out to the shed in the hope of encouraging this. That way, I won’t need to feed them over the winter, but I’ll still know whether they survive. Then, when/if they wake up in the spring, I can find a place well away from people’s gardens and allotments and let them go.

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