Here the common garden snail might seem to be nothing more than a pest, and a fairly uninteresting one at that. Yet the behaviour of these apparently simple animals can be surprisingly complex. Take their mating behavior for example. Garden snails Cornu aspersum are simultaneous hermaphrodites; that is, they possess both male and female genitalia at the same time. One might expect this would make sex a simple affair, both participants wanting to exchange sperm to fertilise their eggs. Yet snail mating is complex and fractious. It begins as two snails approach each other and engage in an hours-long mating dance. During the dance each snail attempts to manoeuvre into position to fire its secret weapon in the mating game; a love-dart. If the snail is successful, this dart — a sharp stylet of calcium carbonate — will be fired into the side of its mate, piercing its body wall.
Males or females?
The recent heavy rains in California have been good for the drought. But it's not just people who are celebrating. After the rain, when everything's nice and damp, like it is now, snails re-emerge. But the sex life of these common snails is anything but ordinary. In nature, fatherhood is easier. Motherhood requires a much greater investment of time, energy, and resources. Or is it going to be shared? Their idea of foreplay is to stab each other with a tiny spike called a love dart. Snails find mates using taste and smell. By waving their upper tentacles in the air—smelling—and tapping their lower ones on the ground—tasting—they pick up on the gooey trails of potential partners.
Different snails reproduce differently, but most snails are "hermaphrodites. This can make it a lot easier for snails to reproduce and quickly make a whole lot of snails! Some hermaphrodite snails do not need another snail to reproduce, but can make more snails all by themselves this is called asexual reproduction. Other snails are hermaphrodites but still need another snail to reproduce this is called sexual reproduction. There are also some snails that aren't hermaphrodites, but are either male or female, and must find a snail of the opposite sex to breed with. Most of the big land snails you see wandering around southern California, called California garden snails, are actually from Europe and were intentionally introduced to California to eat as food escargot is a dish that is made from prepared snails, and it's a French delicacy. These snails are hermaphrodites and need another snail to reproduce. I actually wrote an article about these snails and you can read it here:. Here's an excerpt from that article on the reproduction of these snails: "California provides very good reproduction conditions for Helix aspersa.
Romance is rare in the animal kingdom. Instead of wooing their partners before copulating, male ducks force themselves onto females, depositing genetic material with spiky, corkscrew penises. Then, there's tardigrade sex , which is less violent but not exactly heartwarming.