Imagine spending the day moving at the speed of a snail. Would it be a luxury or a nightmare — inching along taking in the sights and smells or struggling to get to your goals before it is too late?
Snail speeds can range from barely noticeable to a recently recorded max speed of 1 meter per hour! A combination of snail mucus and muscle pulses along the bottom, or foot, of the snail makes this movement possible. However they can only move in a forward direction. Land snails use two types of mucus one for sliding and one for sticking. As they slime around eating and learning from their environment they can maximize their speed by following the slime of other snails to conserve energy like NASCAR drivers!
These unique adaptations make them an interesting subject for biomimetic engineering. For instance, if snails can crawl up walls, why not robots? When you look closely at all they can do, I cannot help by think, “Step aside Spiderman, here comes Super Slug Woman!”
How fast are the snails in your garden, pond or ocean moving? Grab your stopwatch and do a little science of your own. Who knows, your snail might even be cut out for the competitive sport of snail racing! Serena’s little brother Sam has been practicing the 13 inch sprint and hopes to compete in London’s Snail Race Championships when he grows up!
Lai, J. H., Juan C. del Alamo, Javier Rodríguez-Rodríguez and Juan C. Lasheras. (2010) The mechanics of the adhesive locomotion of
terrestrial gastropods. Retrieved from http://jeb.biologists.org/content/213/22/3920#sec-12
Patches, M. (2013) Snails Race for Glory, Lettuce. National Geographic retrieved from
The Huffington Post. (2013). Snails' Top Speed Is Revealed In New Study. Retrieved from
They asked, “Why snails?”
“They are so ugly!” they exclaimed.
Indeed, snails and their ‘slugy’ cousins have quite a reputation and are the nemesis of gardeners everywhere. There are a multitude of anti-gastropod strategies. A few summers ago I carefully transplanted a beautiful rhubarb plant into my garden. Rhubarb is gold in my kitchen and my own plant in the garden was a priceless gift. Not soon after it settled into the soil, I found the rhubarb leaves nibbled almost to the stem! Panic set in. I called my aunt, the master gardener, in hopes of finding a solution that would not require killing my small neighbors. They deserve to eat too after all. Per her suggestion, I began a daily regiment of coffee grounds and eggshells around the base of the plant. Thankfully, after a few weeks of this treatment and several mornings spent ‘transporting’ my slimy friends, my rhubarb finally won. Throughout this process, I learned a good deal about my little ravenous neighbors. For instance, the little ones living in my garden were actually European slugs, an invasive species, not the native forest slugs that loved chowing down on decomposing plants, not rhubarb! I wonder what other snail and slug friendly strategies work for frustrated gardeners?
Striving to live peacefully with wildlife was always important to me. So when I am asked, “Why snails?” the answer is simple. When I was searching for a story it was only natural that I embraced this often-misunderstood creature that had a story to share if we only stopped to listen. Working with Serena the snail, I not only increased my empathy towards snails but I hoped that readers might also deepen their imagination about these mysterious creatures. Taking time to practice empathy is important, as research supports that empathy is a motivator of compassionate action. Put simply, if we try to imagine the experience and needs of another we are much more likely to take action to help them. Empathy an emotional state that relies on our ability to perceive, understand and care about the experiences or perspectives of another person or animal. Like all learning, building empathy takes time and must be practiced. One way to increase our empathy is through the telling of stories. Researchers have found that storytelling creates empathic responses as people identify with the characters and a deeper connection is formed. This holds true for snails and humans. If you are interested in reading more about empathy or the best research based practices to develop it, I would love to share more information with you. Email: email@example.com
Serena and I are thrilled to welcome you to our little world of science, curiosity and adventure! We are both working hard putting the finishing touches on our first story together. Working on a partnership like this is fun and challenging. We spent so may late nights telling stories over tea and decomposing tree leaves. Serena said it was okay to share with you that she did demand several drafts of her image till I got the whirl on her shell just right.
The Curious Little Snail will hit the shelves no later than this summer. This children’s book aims to bring small-scale epic adventures to your living room or classroom. Kids will enjoy the lively images, engaging story and fun characters of Serena and her Papa. Parents and teachers will appreciate the underlying lessons around scientific inquiry, curiosity and asking questions. At the end of each book you will find teaching activities and discussion questions to foster deeper scientific learning, curiosity and wild natural adventures.
Through this weekly blog, Serena and I are excited about sharing snail secrets about gastropods, learning, and getting outside to create your own adventures. We would love for you to subscribe to our blog, look for us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for current updates and follow us on Pintrest for fun snail crafts, pictures and learning opportunities! (Follow the links at the bottom of the page)
Till next week my slimy friends!
Ashley and Serena
Author & Illustrator
Ashley M. Young