University of Calgary researchers have discovered that snails know when to beat a hasty retreat.

Findings published last month in the Journal of Experimental Biology suggest that slow moving snails will move quickly to avoid native predators, even those that have never been experienced firsthand.

 

Lead researcher Dr. Ken Lukowiak said the experiments show snails that have lived generations without exposure to native predators will go into high gear after catching one whiff on one in their watery homes.

“They’re not fast but they move significantly faster when a predator is around,” he said.

The research is being used to determine whether strong memories that are passed down can be determined by placing the snails in a stressful environment. Crayfish were used to spook Canadian snails while salamanders did the same for Dutch snails. Lukowiak said it would take 50-100 years to build up fear for an unknown predator.