Snails have always been and will continue be a very renowned example for their speed. They are the most common slowest creatures you could find around you. Snails are so very common to all the geographical locations of the earth. It is estimated that there might be around 150,000 species of gastropods, or commonly called as snails and they are found in the deepest trenches to the most unbearable hot conditions of the dunes of the deserts.
Snails are indeed fascinating creatures. They exhibit hermaphroditism which means that they are capable of producing both the male and female gametes by themselves. The shells of the snails can be in the range of a few micrometers to over a foot. Snails perish when they lack moisture and also under salty environments. But you see the amount of fascination this simple creature provides us isn’t over yet. In fact, things have just started heating up. Stay put and by the end of this blog, you would probably have your mind blown away by the intricacy of nature.
The Stillness of the Snails: Snails Sleep Overview
The addition of snails to your aquarium can be a very different thing to look at. Though it might seem gross initially, this is becoming a sensational trend in the recent days. Apart from giving a weird feel to the ambience of the aquarium, snails are excellent algae eaters. With this trend becoming more and more popular, a lot of people actually have started considering the need to have snails in their tanks. But, they are perplexed with the amount of time a snail spends while staying absolutely still. We as humans always love to pet and domesticate animals but sometimes we do forget that they are also animals like us, and tend to sleep. Most of the animals sleep like humans, so we never even get a chance to consider the possibility of animals, especially bizarre ones like snails sleeping. Surprisingly, snails do have an extraordinarily complex sleeping pattern. So now, we are going to delve into the how, why and when of the sleep cycles of snails, trying to answer few of the most striking questions about the attitude of snails.
So Yes, Snails Do Sleep: But How Do Snails Sleep?
Sleep consumes a huge part of our lives as humans and even more so in the case of organisms that hibernate. Snails especially have a very unique sleeping system. People are stupid enough to assume a sleeping snail to be a dead snail. But snails can sure be very misleading as signs of motion are hardly seen even when they are in their most active state. It is a well realized fact that fishes don’t have eyelids and hence it is slightly hard to judge their sleeping activities but, mostly fishes are diurnal like us. They stay active during the day and go down when the sun falls. However, snails aren’t subjects of easy judgment.
How Long Do Snails Sleep? – Sleeps can go on forever and ever, permanently:
No one can tell if we’d wake up alive after a good night’s sleep. But we still manage to get into bed every single day, with briefs plans about the next day starting with an alarm set on our phones. The same case applies to other species of the world as well. However for them, sleeping is another level of risk as predatory attacks can be more common during times of the night, when most of the animals, or rather preys would be unconscious, in deep sound sleep. This applies to the marine world as well. Fishes manage to stay alert even though they go to sleep. However, the main subject of this article – the snails hardly ever survive a surprise attack, be it during nights or days. Snails are slow movers and hence they would be gone within the split second of trying to escape because they wouldn’t have even moved probably a millimeter. That’s where Nature so brilliantly developed the mobile house concept and implemented it via snails. The shells that the snails carry around offer protection to them in cases of emergency. It is a better and safe place to sleep and rest. Snails are less complex organisms as compared to its inmates in the aquarium or simply, even us. However they sure do have sophisticated cycles and behaviors associated with them. Due to their lack of complexity, their life cycle is not dependent on sleep. It hardly matters to them and hence their sleep patterns and habits are nothing like anything we’ve experienced.
So How Do Snails Sleep? – Their Method of Sleeping
So, it is pretty obvious that snails can sleep anywhere. They carry their home wherever they go and hence there isn’t going to be a sleeping problem, ever. Another one of the most identifiable features of a snail is its mucous secretions. This sticky mucous enables them to climb over surfaces, defying gravity. This is also the thing that holds them intact when they are sleeping in an awkward position. Once a snail gets used to the ambience of the aquarium, it finds itself a suitable place. It is better to call this as its favorite spot as this is most probably where it will come to rest for the rest of its life, if at all it moves. Once the snail settles, it starts to relax its foot while the tentacles start withdrawing slowly. This relaxation process is also accompanied by the event of the shell starting to hang away from the body.
Apparently, snails don’t seem to love the sun or its warmth as much as the other creatures of the aquarium. Hence, they tend to be in a dormant state or sleep during the day time and stay active during the nights.
As already discussed, it is very difficult to detect motion in an active snail. They hardly tend to move and situation ever worsens when they sleep. No sign of existence would be seen and this makes the owners go crazy because obviously anyone is going to take such leads as a sign of death. Want things to get even bad? Sometimes owners also see their snails floating on the surface of the tank. Now come on, they sure are signs of a dead organism floating right? Nope, it is not the case with snails. They are intelligent and sneaky creatures. This floating phenomenon can be purposeful or accidental but it is a case of death in a very few cases. Snails and some other marine species produce bubbles wontedly so that they start floating, play dead and wait for the preys to arrive. However in other cases, water might get into shells and make them float because of the phenomenon of buoyancy.
So, if you really doubt that your snail might be dead due to obvious reasons, remove it out of water and check its shell. An empty shell is a sure indicator of the death of the creature. However, a quicker indicator would be its reflex to touch when you try to lift it out of water. A foul smell plus an open trapdoor to the snail’s body would confirm your doubts to a hundred percent.
Okay, Snails Sleep. But How Long Does It Last For?
Humans sleep throughout the night which lasts for around 8 hours on an average scale. The same is applicable with fishes. But with snails, their sleep cycle lasts for about 2-3 days. And more interestingly, scientists have revealed that these organisms sleep in small bouts for over 13 hours. This duration is followed by 30 hours of total activeness after which they have the necessity to sleep again. However, if in case a snail loses its sleep for some reason or another, it can still stay active and carry own with its routine activities until the next set of seven bouts. Disturbance of the sleep cycle takes zero to very little toll on the health and functioning of the snail.
Do Snails Hibernate?
Hibernation is one of the several phenomenon with which the snails impress us. These long sleeps can last even up to 3 years! Hibernation is common in animals that live in the cold regions of the earth. Winter is unforgiving in these regions. With lack of food, dangerous environmental conditions, it is best for the animals to stay put in safe places. But without food, it is practically impossible to survive and that is why animals resort to having long sleeps. Before the onset of severe winter conditions, these animals search hard and have one great meal and head on to hibernate. This process reduces their heart rate and slows down breathing which keeps them warm and insulated as all the energy in store is only used for blood circulation and insulation because all the other major organ systems go on a pause mode.
In the case of snails, a safer environment to hibernate would be their very own shells. On the onset of unfavorable conditions, they recede into their shells and secrete a layer of mucous around them in huge quantities. This process is named as estivation and is crucial for the existence of these snails as without moisture, they star to perish. Snails stay inside their shells until situations become favorable and the weather and the environment feel safe. That is when they finally come out and it could easily take up to 3 years.
Few Other Facts About Freshwater Snails:
- Snails have both male and female sex organs. So, they don’t have a gender assigned to them. When there is a male available for mating, the other one becomes a female and vice versa. However they cannot make their own babies, they will definitely need another partner for the process of fertilization.
- Snails just don’t glide over their mucous. They actually walk. They have a food lit structure beneath its shell which constantly expands and contracts. Mucous aids this action, preventing the frictional damage that might happen to the foot which keeps shrinking and growing. The mucous also aids the snails to stick to surfaces, aiding them to defy gravity and also making anywhere and everywhere their home.
- Not all snails have nostrils and not all snails have gills. Depending upon where the snail resides, they have suitable respiratory organs. They cannot be called amphibians as they won’t be having both the organs. Rather, it is a subject of evolution and niche adaptations
- How would it be if you heard that some creature has 120 rows of teeth and each row having 100 teeth? That is exactly how snails are. They have several thousands of teeth inside their mouth which collectively form the radula, or the tongue of the snail.
- The United States, especially the south eastern region hosts the largest number of species of snails and other molluscs. However, as we already know, snails are available almost in all the places of the earth, despite any geographical barriers. The Tanganyika region of the African continent is the next hotspot of snails after America.
- The world of snails is so silent. This is because of their inability to comprehend and react to sounds which is a consequence of the lack of proper auditory organs. However to tally this loss, snails have excellent eyesight which is more than enough for creatures of its size to stay cautious.
- Pomacea maculata, also called as the apple snail is the largest freshwater species of snails which can grow up to a height of 6 inches. Africa produces another species of giant which measures 15.5 inches when fully extended. This massive creature is called as the African giant snail and scientifically, Achatina achatina.
- Through general observations and detailed research works conducted in different topographies of the world, it s estimated that there might be around 5000 freshwater snails on the approximate scale. They seem to live in and around lakes, ponds and rivers across the world. Falling under the subclass of pulmonata, these freshwater snails are considered to be gastropod molluscs.
Snails are not diurnal creatures which mean that they do not spend their day actively and rest at night. They are the sort of creatures who sleep try to sleep for a total duration of 13 hours split across day and night.
Snails don’t need a specific place to rest. They carry their homes on their backs which is where they will always resort to for resting, safety and other purposes. However, they do need some place where the shell can be laid or suspended and this is met by its mucous secretions.
These secretions which are unique to the family of snails enable them to stick on to surfaces with firm grip. This way, they can also get stuck on surfaces, sideways or even upside down, defying and challenging gravity.
Snails don’t have a specific time to go to sleep. They however try to sleep for a total duration of 13 hours, which is split across day and night. But interestingly, even if the snail misses its sleep cycle for some reason, its activities are not affected.
They show no signs pf sleep deprivation and can still stay active until its next bout arrives.
During the extremes of winter when there is lack of food and to protect themselves from the cold, snails hibernate inside their shells and they are covered entirely by a thick layer of mucous.
This hibernation can last up to 3 years, and ends only when the snail feels comfortable enough to come out of the shell and embrace the environment.