Snails move 'faster than we thought', says study

  • 23 August 2013
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Joe's got the lowdown on snails...

Moving at a snail's pace means going really slowly - but new research shows the slimy creatures are faster than people thought.

A new experiment has shown that snails can travel at a fairly speedy one metre per hour!

Researchers attached multicoloured LED lights to the snails so they could track their movements over a day.

The snails were fast enough to explore the length of an average UK garden in a single night.

'Slipstreaming'

"They are so slow that people don't even think about them moving, but it turns out they do, and they can go a long way in a night," said Dr Dave Hodgson, who led this study by the University of Exeter.

The study also found that snails travel in the "slipstream" of others - moving along the slimy trails left by other snails to save energy.

Dr Hodgson says "We know that snails use about 40% of their energy producing slime.

"Given a chance, a snail will prefer to follow a trail that has been laid by another, it is a form of cheating like slipstreaming," he said.

Deadly parasite

But scientists are worried that the fast-moving snails are spreading a parasite that is deadly for dogs.

Called Angiostrongylus vasorum, the parasite is a lungworm that can be really damaging to dogs, which can become infected by accidentally eating slugs or snails which they come across in the garden or on dog toys.

Over the past few years the wet summers across the UK have proved ideal breeding grounds for snails.

According to the Royal Horticultural Society, their numbers increased by 50% last year.

For dog owners, the scientists suggested they should regularly check the nooks and crannies in their gardens for snails and try to stop their dogs coming into contact with them.