|Japan snail escapes by shedding tail: study
One type of snail has its own way to save its backside: grow another one. The Satsuma caliginosa snail, which lives on the islands of Ishigaki and Iriomote off Japan, can shed part of its foot in an effort to escape predator like snakes and lizards.
Like some lizards that shed their tails -– a process called autotomy -– the snail regenerates a new version of its lost body part within a few weeks. "This is the first indication of autotomy in land snails," says Masaki Hoso of the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden, the Netherlands, who made the discovery.
Hoso experimented with "isshikimaimai'' snails (Satsuma caliginosa caliginosa) that live on the Okinawan islands of Ishigaki and Iriomote by feeding them to predator snakes, called Pareas iwasakii.
"It was found that isshikimaimai often escaped predation by detaching their own tails'' before hiding themselves inside their shells, he said on his website, adding the cut-off sections were regenerated "a few weeks later''.
Hoso also put the same kind of snakes together with a different type of snails from another Okinawan island, about 120 kilometres west of Ishigaki, where there are no snail-eating snakes.
"These snails do not cut off their tails at all and in the experiment they were easily eaten by Iwasaki's snail-eaters,'' he said.
"The autotomy of isshikimaimai is presumed to be a special case of adapting to counter snakes,'' said Hoso.
But he noted that while the tails of lizards are structured to be easily detached from the body trunks, no such special structure is present in the tail of isshikimaimai, AFP reports.
For the snails, though, the strategy is a desperate one. With only part of a foot, they move even more slowly than normal, making for a particularly laboured getaway.