Speedy Snails Pose Deadly Threat To UK Dogs
Snails can explore the length of an average British garden in a single night and reach a top speed of one metre per hour, a new study has revealed.
Scientists examined the habits of 450 garden snails, recording their movements using LED lights, UV paints and time-lapse photography.
This is the first time snails have been studied in this way, creating some unexpectedly spectacular images.
The findings revealed how snails will travel distances of up to 25 metres in a 24-hour period and seek out areas of shelter including long grass or dogs' toys left in a garden overnight.
Four researchers from Exeter University also discovered that snails move in convoys, piggy-backing on the slime of other snails to conserve energy.
The study found that a snail could use up to 30% of its energy in slime production alone.
It was commissioned as a resource for dog owners, whose pets are at risk from a potentially fatal parasite spread by slugs and snails - the lungworm Angiostrongylus vasorum.
The parasite is contracted when dogs accidentally swallow even the smallest slugs or snails, which can be found in toys, puddles and long grass.
Dr Dave Hodgson, associate professor of ecology at the University of Exeter, said: "Until now no one has fully understood the habits of these fascinating creatures that we encounter in our gardens every day.
"By learning more about the behaviour of snails, we hope dog owners can better understand they ways in which dogs can encounter snails on a day-to-day basis and the lungworm risk they present, taking the appropriate precautions."
In recent years, slugs and snails have enjoyed a population explosion due to increasing wet weather and favourable breeding conditions.
Last year, the Royal Horticultural Society reported a 50% increase in slug numbers.
And slugs and snails also topped a list of the top 10 garden pests in the UK, in findings published by the Royal Horticultural Society.