Snails are amazing creatures that occupy almost all places of habitat in nature. There is a large variety of species. In 2004, French scientists described only 80,000 most common species, and many of them remain unknown to science.
The snails belong to the gastropod mollusks of the pulmonary type. Since they are cold-blooded creatures, they cannot regulate heat exchange in their bodies. Only by adapting, by the time of day and the seasons, they find the opportunity to survive for many years. They go into hibernation, slowing down their vital signs, waiting for warm days. The state of suspended animation also contributes to the prolongation of their life. They hide deep underground, where they can not be reached by predators. For example, in the wild, a grape snail lives up to three years, while in captivity this period lasts 7 years, and there are cases of particular longevity, lasting up to 20 years. These aspects are determined by the influence of the environment, predators and parasites on them.
What do snails do at night and how much do they sleep?
Land-based, as well as water mollusks, lead a nocturnal life in the warm season. When everyone is awake, they sleep, hiding in the shade of tall grass, under rocks and leaves, waiting for darkness to come. As soon as the scorching sun hides behind the horizon and the humidity level rises, the snails crawl out from their shelters to start a night feast and create a stock of essential nutrients for the winter. It will last until the morning dew and the first sun rays appear.
Snails are quite voracious creatures and have about 25,000 teeth located on the tongue. With their help, they cut and grind food. Large flocks of mollusks are capable of destroying hectares of vineyards and other greens. Duration of the meal is up to three hours. In the warm season they live a full life, multiply and eat a lot. Before the onset of cold weather, a new generation grows up and has time to grow stronger.
Hibernation of grape snails
With the onset of the cold season, snails fall into hibernation, a state of suspended animation. During this period, all processes, including metabolism and even palpitations slow down. The duration of hibernation is from 4 to 6 months. Usually this period starts from the middle of October to the beginning of November. As soon as the air temperature starts falling below 12-15 degrees, Helix Pomatia is usually buried in the ground to 30 centimeters and seals its cork with a cork from the limestone stored in the summer. This species does not tolerate negative temperatures. As, for example, Helix Aspersa, with a decrease in the duration of the day and with a cold snap, also falls into a hibernation, but the houses of this species are more resistant to low temperatures and are capable to prevent freezing of the body tissues.
The ability to survive of these mollusks increases due to the presence of some characteristics:
- Reduction of volume of water,
- creation of epiphragm,
- relatively big size,
- form of snail shells and its membrane.
These characteristics are more important for more severe climatic conditions, lack of low temperatures.
How long do the snails sleep?
Depending on the climate in which the shellfish lives, the anabiosis period can last about six months, till favorable weather conditions occur. Snails can fall into this state not only because of cold weather, but also in conditions of drought and lack of moisture. As soon as conditions improve, the mollusks wake up and start leading an active lifestyle. After awakening, they are very hungry and eat all the greens in their field of vision.
At snail farms and in artificial conditions, it is necessary to monitor the temperature regime and humidity level. Very often some unexpected increase in temperature leads to the premature awakening of mollusks, and as a result, their death or infertility.
In artificial conditions, before hibernation snails are placed in dry cardboard boxes or on pallets, where they empty the intestines and get rid of excess moisture within a week. This is the so-called drying period. After that, they are folded into woven bags, then into plastic boxes, in order to avoid damage from excess pressure. When mollusks are «packaged» they are sent to special stores, where the necessary level of moisture and cold are maintained. Lowering the temperature should be gradual 1-2 degrees per day. In addition too low temperatures should be avoided to prevent crystallization
How to wake the snails up?
Mollusks should be woken up carefully, as abrupt changes of the conditions around them can place them to a stressful state and death. To wake mollusks and avoid large losses, increase the air temperature gradually several degrees per day, simulating natural warming. This will help avoid stress. In order to accelerate this process, water them with warm water. They will gradually feel the heat and begin emerging from the shells. Do not forget that snails did not eat during winter. Usually, after wintering, they are placed in special feeding troughs, where they are poured with water, and the food is laid out on the shelves. When they wake up, they will instinctively find it. When snails wake up they can be transferred to natural habitats, where they replenish the content of necessary nutrients for the next winter.