Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Benefits of being Hermaphrodite



































It's seed-sowing time again - a time of hope and expectation, tempered only by the knowledge that the garden snail population is waking up too, ready to chew its way through all that tender new growth. Some time ago I devised a way of reducing the garden snail population by giving them somewhere to spend the winter where they could easily be found (click here) and then transported into the countryside. These two, caught in the act of mating, are a couple that I missed.


Garden snails Helix aspersa are hermaphrodite but nevertheless exchange sperm, as these two are doing. Being hermaphrodite is one of the secrets of their success because it means that every individual in the population can lay eggs and produce offspring; if animals exist as separate genders, either male or female, only half the population can lay eggs.


Click here to see some images of snail eggs and click here to see the baby snails that emerged from them.

6 comments:

  1. Great post, and thank you for the links to your other posts, they are wonderful. I guess that explains why slugs eggs are transparent. The baby snails are so cute!

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  2. Great post, as always! Our snails are hiding somewhere due to the heat. They will surface at the beginning of the monsoons. I hope this year there will be no Giant African snails!

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  3. Hi Phil! Regarding your earlier post, isn't the Willow Giant bothered by termites? He is so beautiful that it would be a pity if he gets damaged.

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  4. Thanks Africa .... I hadn't thought through the connection with the transparent eggs of slugs ....I really like the way you can see some of the internal organs of baby snails through their translucent shells...

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  5. Hi Lotusleaf, we used to have a full-grown African land snail (called Maximillian)in the Biology Department at Durham University. They are impressive, aren't they?......... but a nightmare for gardeners!

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  6. We don't have termites lotusleaf but there are plenty of other similar invertebrates that will damage him, I suppose..... and I imagine that fungi will move in quite quickly, in our cool, wet climate..

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