Giving Birth at a Snail’s speed
An event rarely seen “almost” happened recently at Science North, a science centre located in Sudbury, Ontario. I say “almost”, because the complete ordern of events was stopped short, probably due to prying eyes!
One of the Giant African Snails living on the second level of the Science Centre started laying an egg.
“Believe it or not this is a very scarce event to observe, “said Jacqueline Bertrand, Science North Staff Horticulturist. “In eight years, I’ve never seen this. The snails usually lay their eggs at night and bury them in the moist topsoil.”
The Giant African Snail is the largest land snail in the world. All land snails are hermaphrodites, producing both spermatozoa and ova. The egg develops and is expelled by a reproductive opening just behind the right side of the snail’s head.
“We noticed the snail laying an egg and grabbed the camera right away,” said Science North Bluecoat, Andrea Marois. “The egg, which is off-white in colour, is about the size of a robin’s egg and also has a hard shell. Unfortunately the snail seems to have sucked the egg back in, and will probably lay it later on.”
The Giant African Land Snail can lay an egg as large as 6 cm in diameter. The egg is then buried in the dirt and will hatch after approximately two to four weeks. Snails may lay eggs as often as once a month, and can lay up to 200 eggs per year.
“Last year about forty baby snails hatched at Science North,” said Marois.
“It takes about three months for baby snails to look like miniature versions of their parents. They will continue to grow, usually for two to three years, until they reach adult size. It will take at the minimum one year for them to become sexually mature – at which point the cycle will begin again,”said Timmermans. “As a scientist this was a very exciting thing to see…already if we only got to see a little bit of the complete course of action.”
To learn more about Giant African Snails visit the character Exchange at Science North in Sudbury, Ontario.