04 September 2006

Hygromiids in the pot

Indoor hygromiids doing the usual

The land snails in the family Hygromiidae are widespread throughout the Mediterranean countries. Many species in the family have the habit of climbing and aestivating on tree trunks, bushes, stems of grasses, herbaceous plants and on walls.

It is usually claimed that these snails climb on objects to avoid the higher temperatures found on and near the ground in the summer (for example, see Mienis, Pallidula 30:21-22, 2000). That does make sense, but may not be the only answer or the right answer.

Several years ago, I kept several hygromiids in captivity in a large pot filled with soil. The species included Cernuella virgata, Xerolenta obvia and Xerocrassa cretica (below). Because I was aware of their climbing tendencies, I had erected several dry lily stems in the soil. The snails, kept mostly indoors at about 22 ºC and away from direct sunlight, spent most of their active and dormant time on the stems. One December day when it was raining lightly and the outdoor temperature was about 9 ºC, I placed the pot with 6 snails in it outside. About an hour later, 5 of the snails were crawling on the stems and one was on the soil (there was no standing water in the pot).

Xerocrassa cretica: the snail from D28

These observations suggest to me that it isn't just the summer heat that makes these snails climb. Their climbing habit appears to be genetically controlled; they climb regardless of the weather. But why exactly they climb, I don't quite know.


Duane said...

Perhaps like mountaineers, they climb it because it's there.


Yes, but not all snail species are climbers. Some are more inclined to climb, while others are inclined to stay on the ground.

vanessa cardui said...

I know next to nothing about snails (can you recommend a reference book for beginners/west coast of US). But our snails are often seen climbing the walls. Don't know why; I had kind of assumed it was to get away from too much water, but my observations so far are too casual to confirm anything. I'll look closer in the future.