Sunday, January 4, 2009

Snail Heaven

Having selected the name SnailWriter for this blog, I thought it important to say a few things about snails. Now pay attention...

Snails live in virtually every habitat on earth – rivers, the sea, deserts, mountains, forests, and, of course, our gardens. The biggest snail is an Australian marine snail, which can grow to over 30 inches in length and weigh up to 50 lbs. Snails are mathematically inclined and their shells are most often a right-handed logarithmic spiral – I’m not sure what this is, but I’m perfectly sure I could not make one.

The glistening trails they leave are lubrication for their “foot.”

Snail shells are made up mostly of calcium carbonate, so snails need calcium in their diet. They can repair a slightly damaged shell themselves. Most snails have two sets of tentacles on their heads – one with eyes and the other with noses.

Most land snails are hermaphrodites – they produce both sperm and eggs. Although they could presumably fertilize their own eggs, they choose not to. Prior to reproduction they have a slow dance – what folks my age used to call rent-a-tile – for two to six hours – including plenty rubbing up and biting and eye stalk waving. About one third of land snails file a “dart” at the object of their affections – thought to be the origin of the Cupid legend. I am not making this up.

Snails have been eaten by humans for thousands of years.

Due to their measured approach to life, snails have been used as symbols of laziness. Carl Jung said that a dream of a snail is representative of the self – the soft subconscious and the hard outer shell.

Jamaica is “snail heaven.” We have between 555 and 561 (depending on which scientist you consult) named species of land snails and of these 505 are found in Jamaica and nowhere else – an amazing level of diversity.

Naturally, Jamaican snails are sexual performers. Up to 75% of their body volume can consist of their…umm… reproductive organs, and their mating episodes last for hours even though they are often exposed to the dangers of the wild, such as salt-wielding gardeners…

For more fascinating Jamaican snail facts, see

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