I can't remember the last time a BBC story made me so happy. Once again, the Brits prove their superiority in all things horticultural. Could you imagine Americans plucking snails from their garden, making a unique identifying mark on their shells, and swapping them with a neighbor up the road, all in the name of science?
Really. British people: I love you. I love you all.
The BBC reports on a question put forth on 'So You Want To
Be A Scientist,' a segment on Radio 4's Material World program. The question had to do with whether snails return to the garden after you've relocated them to another spot. Do they possess some kind of homing instinct that will drive them right back to your very own garden after you've gone to all the trouble to move them?
Wait a minute. I need to back up here. This question is relevant to British gardeners because apparently some of them collect snails and humanely relocate them to another spot down the road, rather than crushing them underfoot, drowning them in beer, sprinkling salt on them, feeding them to the chickens, tossing tightly-sealed bags of them in the trash, poisoning them with Sluggo, or–my favorite–tossing them into the street so cars can run over them.
Yes, there is a country where it is a common enough practice to humanely relocate snails that questions must be asked about it!
Okay. Got that part? Now back to the story: This question was apparently so important and interesting to the British public that it was selected from among a thousand similar questions for a major research project.
The Great Snail Swap encourages gardeners to collect snails, mark them, swap them, inspect the garden to see if their snails have returned, and report their results online. There's a research diary on Facebook, and–well–the whole thing is just terribly exciting. The results will be reported next month. I know it will be intolerable for us all to wait that long, but wait we must.
Meanwhile, would anyone like to swap a snail with me? I could also give you an earthworm, a dozen or so black ants, a pregnant European cross spider, and a pebble. Take them all, and we'll see if they come back. I'll station my cat near the front door to watch for their return. You do the same.Posted by Amy Stewart on July 28, 2010 at 5:23 am, in the category Unusually Clever People.