So You Want To Be A Scientist? Homing Snails Experiment: Original Proposal

a snail, by Ciar. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Original Proposal: "What is the homing distance of the Garden Snail (Helix aspersa) that decimates my plants? How far away do I have to dump them before they find their way back to my garden?"

 

 

What is your idea?

What is the homing distance (h.d.) of the Garden Snail (Helix aspersa) that decimates my plants? How far away do I have to dump them before they find their way back to my garden? What would be a truly scientific way of measuring this, given the enormous number of variables?

How would you research this?

So far, I've painted their shells with red nail polish and popped them over the neighbour's fence, (50 metres). I never saw them again. Did they die (because of polish), hide till I'd simmered down, or preferred neighbour's garden? I need help with controlled conditions, e.g. narrow runs of various distances, (like a greyhound track), with petunias etc. as bait, experimenting with different terrain, food, but eliminating one variable at a time.

Extra information

I have researched on the internet, asked on a Q & A Science site and also read specialist books. Experts seem to think that the h.d. is anything between one and three miles. But this is impossible to verify without marking the snails and constant vigilance along the homebound track - even if one knew what that was! Also, given top speed of locomotion (0.03mph - ?) one would need the patience of Job, and an army of helpers - with sleeping bags - over a wide area.

I've selected Helix aspersas as subjects because they are most common, do the most damage in gardens, are larger than most other species, easily recognizable, and have a comparatively long life span (about three years). As a frustrated gardener, I have murdered them in grisly ways in the past, but now have come to respect them for their resilience and would like, instead, to help them emigrate.

Scientific mentor

Dr Dave Hodgson,
Senior Lecturer in Ecology,
School of Biosciences,
University of Exeter

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