Monday, January 29, 2007

All creatures great and small

Thea has been further developing her snail sanctuary. It has moved from a wooden box to a more luxurious carboy. When she first embarked on the project she asked how she could mark the snails to help identify them. I suggested marking them with a dot of liquid paper, as you will see from the picture I think she got somewhat carried away. Not sure what the neighbours will make of these snails when they are released back into the environment, that is if they even notice. Not many seem to take a great interest in their gardens beyond mowing the lawn.

With this great interest in snails we have been taking the opportunity to learn more about their anatomy and physiology. I had a vague recollection that snails were hermaphrodite so looked up snails on the web and found this interesting bit of information on the BBC Science and Nature web pages:

"Common snails, like all land snails, are hermaphrodites. This means that they possess both male and female reproductive organs. Despite this they still need to find another snail to mate with. When two snails meet during the breeding season (late spring or early summer), mating is initiated by one snail piercing the skin of the other snail with a calcified 'love dart'. The exact purpose of the 'love dart' is not fully understood but it seems to stimulate the other snail into exchanging small packets of sperm. After mating is complete the snails will produce eggs internally, which are fertilised by the sperm that has been exchanged."

Thea has been expressing interest in getting some African land snails as pets. I have read they can grow up to 39cm. Not quite sure I think this is a good idea, they could make some monster snail trails if they escape and climb up the walls, plus they could inflict some serious damage on our houseplants. I have also been told their aroma is a touch unpleasant!! I think we will take some time to reflect on this idea!

Both children are enjoying reading the Greek Myths and Legends. James is following the stories in The Orchard Book of First Greek Myths and Thea is reading the Usborne Illustrated Guide to Greek Myths and Legends.

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