Lock on Target | Homing Instinct of Snails

A snapshot of the likely cover of Science Centre’s upcoming guidebook on Snails and other Non-marine Molluscs of Singapore

Many moons ago, when I was just a little rugrat, I accompanied mum and dad to a local shopping centre—Plaza Singapura. Thanks to my kiddie instincts, I soon found myself astray and hopelessly lost. It wasn’t until I cried my way to the information counter, and had the empathetic duty staff announce my name on the PA system that I was found by my parents. There’s absolutely no way I could have made my own way home.

But snails are an entirely different proposition. Did you know that your garden snails can make their way back to your garden even if you took them for a ‘joyride’ and dropped them 100 feet away? So if you were like me and thought these ‘simpletons’ were unlikely to have any internal navigational system, think again!

Ruth Brooks, a 69-year-old grandmother from Devon devised an experiment, which determined that snails had a homing instinct and which won her the title of Britain’s Amateur Scientist of the Year. In her experiment, she rounded up her snails and marked them with nail polish. She also asked her neighbours to do the same with their snails.

Another image from the upcoming guidebook showing the giant African landsnail, Achatina fulica in the act of plant demolition

A ‘switcheroo’ was done and the snails were duly swapped around. Believe it or not, most of the snails returned to their original gardens to continue where they left off (we’re talking plant decimation here!).  If you’re trying to combat a snail infestation in your garden without resorting to pellets and other nasties, Brooks reckons that snails should be relocated at least 300 feet away and be given some food.

“Put them somewhere nice with some food and you can be almost certain that they won’t come back,” she said.

Looks like gardeners will have to do more than just hurl their snails over the fence to get rid of these slow but furious fellas!

P.S. Look out for Science Centre’s upcoming publication-‘A Guide to Snails and other Non-marine Molluscs of Singapore’.

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