Snooze You Lose…A Third of Your Life!

There aren’t many fascinating things snails can do, but they can stay asleep for three years! You might ask how is this possible…so I will explain the scientific reasoning behind this interesting fact.

Snails have a distinct sleeping pattern. They sleep for 15 hours and fall in and out of sleep seven times. After this, they do their activities for thirty hours. Human sleep periods range from twenty-four hours of sleep and activity. Snails are mostly awake during the night because of the humidity that time produces, a moist environment helps them produce mucus to move. When there is no humidity, as in the temperature is extremely hot or cold, this is what causes snails to stay in their shell for a longer amount of time. In rare cases, snails can sleep for three years to avoid a dry environment. In perspective, snails could end up sleeping ⅓ of its life away.

In biology, it is very common for animals to use hibernation, although this is not what happens. Hibernation takes place when animals go through a prolonged period of dormancy to avoid the forage of food. Aestivation is a period of prolonged dormancy during both hot and dry periods. Snails use a mix of both of these to function while asleep while maintaining its life. A big question is how snails maintain life in order to stay alive. When snails decide to go into hibernation and aestivation, they close off their shells with their slime. You can find them inside eating live plants, dying plants, fruits, and algae when doing this. Snails have a radula that helps make this possible; this assists the snail when grinding its food.

After the snail has closed its shell off, they manage to gather the moisture needed to survive, which is their crucial part of life. This takes place by creating an opening in the slimy gel, making a thin epigram. Since snails are nocturnal, the light of day does not burn them as bad, and they don’t need to worry about finding a mate because they are hermaphrodites, an organism with both reproducing organisms. A test was taken when a snail specimen was glued to a board. Four years later, that same specimen was placed in water and came out of the shell. This snail was indeed alive after this test and went on to live for two more years—[see the video in the link above in paragraph].

In case you were curious how they move around with their smiley body, here is how. Just like the basics in biology that we learn in class, snails use adhesion to transverse across almost any type of solid surface. However, this gets more difficult when snails try to generate a strong attachment on superhydrophobic surfaces. There are reports that snail adhesion needs moisture to move because of these hydrophobic surfaces. Since snails need moisture and hydrophobic means, not attracted to water, when a snail moves over this surface it becomes increasingly more difficult. A recent test took place where snails were left on two upturned pots overnight, one with hydrophobic coating. At the end of the cups they put lettuce, it became clear that snails cannot climb some surfaces and have great trouble moving on hydrophobic surfaces, shown in the experiment.

Need more exciting facts about snails? Here are a few… Doctors from the University of Toronto indicated a test to see if snails do need sleep. They used three test methods, tapping the snail’s shell, nudging the snail’s body, and seeing the response to a disturbance using food to measure the snail’s reaction. They found out the sleeping pattern of snails, as mentioned before, and proved snails don’t need sleep as much as they need moisture to thrive. Another test placed on snails was from a scientist in India named Jayaseelan B. Franklin. She identified sleep-promoting compounds in the venom of a species of sea snails called “Cobweb Cone.” Specifically, 14 peptides were isolated and divided; according to this scientist, they may be used for pharmaceutical purposes. Some also believe that it could be a cure to insomnia, so next time you find yourself complaining about a snail or calling them boring, they could be the cure you need for your sleep problems.


About Mr. Mohn

Biology Teacher

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