Captive breeding alters snail behaviour

RESEARCH carried out by Dr Sarah Dalesman of Aberystwyth University’s IBERS, and James Liddon (University of Exeter) has discovered that rearing snails in the laboratory can cause important changes in their behaviour.

The study, published today in the Journal of Molluscan Studies, investigated trail following; a behaviour found in many marine and freshwater snail species and frequently used by the snails to locate other individuals.

Slime trail following is found in many marine and freshwater snails.

Not so lonely snails – slime trail following is found in many marine and freshwater snails.

James Liddon stated;

“We found that great pond snails follow the slime trails laid down by other snails as they move. What we found really surprising was that rearing the snails in the laboratory changed this behaviour relative to wild snails. This difference between wild and laboratory reared snails only occurred when they had been socially isolated for a week before we tested them.”

Dr Dalesman said;

“We predicted that isolating the snails would increase their drive to find other snails and increase trail following behaviour. What we actually found was that trail following was decreased in isolated laboratory reared snails, but not affected in isolated wild snails.”

She went on to say that,

“We think something similar might be happening with the snails”. She went on to add: “Laboratory snails are used to living in close quarters with other individuals and used to frequent social contact, and so isolation is more stressful for them. Wild snails will only occasionally bump into other individuals in their natural environment, so find social isolation less of a problem.”

The statement concluded that “this study highlights the importance of considering how captive breeding changes the environment for invertebrates relative to their wild counterparts, and that this can have a strong impact on how they behave.”