Stanhope, Weardale: This cumulative mollusc hibernation occurs in our garden after the initially frosts, when old clay freduced pots behind the greenhome become packed with snails


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I probably wouldn’t have noticed the mollusc hibernaculum if my bootlace hadn’t come undone. Crouching dvery own to shelter from the wind behind a dry-stone wall while I retied it, I uncovered scores of overwintering garden snails (Cornu aspersum), wedged in the crevices between the rocks.

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Each snail was glued to the sandrock by its epiphragm, a layer of solidified mucus, sealing it within its helical shell for the winter, while its metabolism barely ticked over. The innera lot of animals were lodged deep in the wall, through no room to manoeuvre, so once spring’s wake-up arrives it will surely be a situation of initially in, last out.

This collective mollusc hibernation occurs in our garden after the initially frosts, as soon as old clay freduced pots behind the greenresidence come to be packed through snails. In summer these gastropods roam at night and also have a homing instinct towards temporary daytime shelters at dawn, yet possibly, in winter, tright here is some sort of chemical aggregation signal that renders them huddle together in such numbers. It’s certainly a convenience as soon as it involves reducing the snail population to controllable proparts, before they have a chance to consume as well many kind of tender young seedlings in spring.


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After extransforming sperm, both hermaphrodite snail partners can lay eggs. Photograph: Phil GatesOver two decades of winters, we have to have built up and also resituated hundreds of these resting molluscs to a neighborhood woodland, but the garden snail populace at the end of each year seems undiminiburned. That’s probably as a result of the efficiency of snail sex.

None is exclusively male, merely serving to donate genes. They are all hermaphrodite and also, after common exadjust of sperm, both partners deserve to lay up to 80 eggs, 6 times during the summer. Our annual search and relocation exercise is an environmentally friendly defence for the vegetable garden, without resorting to agrochemical warfare.

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Come April, the trends that appear on the reduced panes of glass in the greenhome carry out early warning of resting snails that we didn’t find. Each supplies its radula, a dart-shaped tongue coated in chitinous teeth, to rasp off the bright green algae, relocating its head from side to side as it glides throughout the glass. The etched feeding trails of dart-shaped tongue impressions develop an abstract pattern of impressive beauty.


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Patterns developed by snail tongues, rasping algae from the surchallenge of greenresidence glass. Photograph: Phil Gates

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