The Japanese white-eye is one of the most
popular airplane models for snails.
The airplane is, arguably, one of the greatest inventions of humankind, shortening travel times and bringing disparate cultures together. But it turns out that we’re not the only ones to take advantage of flying vehicles. Researchers in Japan have now learned that a certain land snail, Tornatellides boeningi, can quickly travel great distances by hitching a ride in the guts of birds.
Gorilla conservationists in Nigeria have a new ally–snails.
The critically endangered Cross River gorilla is under constant threat from poachers in this poor nation, as poachers kill the animals for their bushmeat or sell them illegally to traffickers in the exotic pet trade. With just 300 Cross River gorillas left, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) hopes to offer locals an alternate source of both food and revenue so they’ll leave the poor apes alone. Enter the snail.
For this conservation project, the WCS picked eight former gorilla poachers and got them to start farming African giant snails, a local delicacy. The WCS helped the poachers construct snail pens and stocked each pen with 230 giant snails, writes Scientific American. As the snails breed quickly, farmers can expect a harvest of 3,000 snails per year. Scientific American adds:
According to WCS, this should end up being a fairly profitable enterprise for local farmers. Annual costs are estimated at just $87 per farmer, with profits around $413 per year. The meat of one gorilla, says the WCS, would net a poacher around $70.
80beats: Bushmeat Debate: How Can We Save Gorillas Without Starving People?
80beats: New Threat to Primates Worldwide: Being “Eaten Into Extinction”
DISCOVER: Extinction–It’s What’s for Dinner
Discoblog readers: We need your help.
If you’ve been reading the DISCOVER blogs this week, you might have caught 80beats’ coverage of the study out suggesting the ultra-tough shell of a deep-sea snail could inspire the next generation of body armor. For reasons that could only be described as “dropping the ball,” we didn’t include the illustration provided by the National Science Foundation. It’s not every day that you get to see a samurai attacking a giant snail, though he probably should’ve brought his Hattori Hanzō sword rather than this spear.
Samurai vs. Snail:
Not to be outdone, the Nature study we covered today, arguing Madagascar’s mammals arrived there via flotilla, came with its own illustration. In it, the happy lemur wins the boat race to the island while the sad hippos and lions, too fat to ride, stay on the mainland.
The Great Animal Boat Race:
More awesomely bizarre? Please, help us decide:
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80beats: Could a Deep Sea Snail’s Shell Inspire Next-Gen Body Armor?
80beats: Study: Madagascar’s Weird Mammals Got There On Rafts
Images: NSF; Luci Betti Nash
As if snails don’t get mocked enough for being so slow, evolution sure isn’t doing them any favors. It seems that evolution favors snails with a slower metabolism because they have more energy for other activities, such as growth and reproduction.
Testing the biological hypothesis of the “energetic definition of fitness,” which purports that the less energy an animal spends, the more it will have for survival and reproduction, the researchers measured the size and standard metabolic rate (the amount of energy required for maintenance) of nearly 100 garden snails. After seven months, the researchers found that surviving snails had a metabolic rate 20 percent lower than that of the dead snails—and no correlation between snail size and rate of survival.