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

Captive breeding influences pond snail behaviour

Research carried out at the University of Exeter has discovered a behavioural change in laboratory reared pond snails following a period of isolation relative to wild snails.

The study published today in the Journal of Molluscan Studies investigated trail following; a behaviour found in many marine and freshwater snail species. Lead author James Liddon completed the work as part of his undergraduate research project at Exeter, he explains: “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. ”

Principal investigator on this study, Dr Sarah Dalesman (Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow at Aberystwyth University) 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.”

Previous work has shown that social isolation acts as a stress for laboratory reared snails, reducing their ability to form memory. Dr Dalesman explains: “We think that 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.”

Date: 22 January 2015

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