Parasite study reveals nocturnal secrets of snails
Friday, August 23, 2013 - 01:44
Aug. 23 - Research into how snails spread a parasite fatal to dogs has revealed that the gastropods can explore the length of an average British garden in a single night - reaching a top speed of one metre per hour. The revelations came after scientists fitted a sample group of snails with LEDs and filmed them with high-speed cameras. Matthew Stock has more.
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Time-lapse footage shows the nocturnal travels of hundreds of common garden snails.
A team from the University of Exeter attached LED lights to some snails and used UV paint on others to show in luminous detail just what snails get up to in the dead of night.
The study was commissioned to reveal how snails spread a lung-worm parasite that is deadly to dogs.
University of Exeter professor Dave Hodgson says that after a succession of wet and warm summers, parasite numbers have exploded, and dogs are especially vulnerable.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) DR. DAVE HODGSON, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF ECOLOGY, UNIVERSITY OF EXETER, SAYING:
"We all know that dogs like to explore every nook and cranny in the garden, I think we're not so aware of how much of the garden snails use within their confines of the vegetable patch. This is what this research is designed to show; in fact snails will explore similar patches to dogs, they have to come into contact with dogs during the day or at night, they'll perhaps explore dog faeces in the garden, they might explore dog toys in the garden. There are plenty of opportunities for dogs to meet with snails and slugs and possibly to expose themselves to this parasite."
Dogs contract the parasite when they accidentally swallow slugs or snails. It can lead to a build up of mucus in the lungs which can be fatal.
But the research has revealed some previously unknown facts about the common snail. For example, it can explore the length of an average British garden in just one night, and reach a top speed of one metre per hour.
The team also made the surprising discovery that snails move in convoys and 'piggy-back' on other snail's slime in order to conserve energy. Sustainability in slow motion.
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