Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

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Snorkeling snails

snail snorkels

Images of snorkels (arrows) found on Asian Alycaeus snails from Science News.

Scientists have been wondering why Asian Alycaeidae snails have a snorkel that was seemingly functionless. While other snails that live on land have a similar tube with an opening that allows them to breathe while inside the shell, the end of the breathing tube (i.e. snorkel) on the Asian snails appeared to be sealed.

A new study published in Biology Letters shows that the tube of Alycaeus conformis is not sealed after all. They used electron microscopy to examine the snorkel and found around 50 microscopic air channels in the tube with very small slits open to the external air. The researchers think that the tiny slits might prevent parasite infections or help prevent water loss.


Pall-Gergely B, Naggs F, Asami T. Novel shell device for gas exchange in an operculate land snail. Biology Letters. 12(7): 20160151, 2016.

Science News

Categories: Hibernation and Hypoxia, Nature's Solutions

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