Saturday, 22 August 2020

Aestivating Escargots

Throughout much of southern, western and northern France, when the weather is dry, you may notice tiny snails strung around plants and posts like pearl necklaces. They are particularly abundant at the coast, but also inland up the Loire Valley. They are Striped Snails Cernuella virgata (Fr. Caragouille globeuse) and they are aestivating, choosing tall plants like the big umbellifers and teasels or wooden fence posts.

Striped Snails (mostly) on a post on Ile de Ré.
Striped Snails Cernuella virgata. Ile de Ré. France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

When it rains a thin film of algae grows on the plant stems or fence posts. The snails, which up to this point have been lurking about at ground level, climb up to feast on the algae, but once the sun comes out and dries everything out they are trapped. In order to survive and not dessicate they produce a papery seal of mucus and stick themselves to the stem to wait out the dry spell. Being elevated from the ground makes a significant difference to the temperature they have to deal with too, with the ground being hotter than up on a plant. Once it rains again they can move on, restore their moisture levels and get back to grazing and gaining weight.


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Katie Zeller said...

I had no idea why they were up on the posts. We don't have a lot of snails, but a few. This year I've hardly seen any snails or slugs.

Susan said...

When I first saw them on Ile de Ré I didn't know what they were doing either. It was such striking behaviour that I looked it up.

Jean said...

I have seen this, although I can't remember where.
I love the term "looked it up" as it makes me think of the good old days when you would leaf through a text book or go to the library, or, ask your mum and dad. There's something about that that makes me nostalgic for my childhood, maybe because times are so uncertain at the moment.

Susan said...

Now you've been reminded of it you will see it everywhere :-)

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