Sunday, 5 May 2013

Love Darts - Helix aspersa

Garden snails, Helix aspersa, don't need sex they're hermaphrodites, an organism with both male and female reproductive organs.  Although self fertilisation can occur they do, at least in my garden, like a bit of gamete swapping, in the form of sperm exchange. However snail courtship like most snail activities is a slow process taking several hours.  Preliminary to copulation snails shoot darts (scientific name gypsobelum) at each other.  These hard darts are stabbed into the partner prior to mating and are thought to contain hormones that increase the survivability of the sperm that the snail will subsequently pass to its partner. I attach a   photograph that clearly show the dart in the side of the right hand snail whilst it also shows the transfer of sperm between one snail and another.  Not a lot more to say really other than there's a lot of sex going off in the garden at the moment. End result, each snail produces about 80 large whitish eggs.

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