To Clare: snail story

I read in the newspaper today that the more slime produced by a snail, the slower it will crawl. Leaving a trail of mucus uses up energy, so a thin layer of mucus allows the most efficent movement, apparently. Knowing of Clare’s identification with snails, I followed this news brief to the source, which turns out to be a scientific paper on the ArXiv preprint server by Eric Lauga and  A. E. Hosoi at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).

Here is the abstract of their paper:

"Common gastropods such as snails crawl on a solid substrate by propagating muscular waves of shear stress on a viscoelastic mucus. Producing the mucus accounts for the largest component in the gastropod’s energy budget, more than twenty times the amount of mechanical work used in crawling. Using a simple mechanical model, we show that the shear-thinning properties of the mucus favor a decrease in the amount of mucus necessary for crawling, thereby decreasing the overall energetic cost of locomotion."

Clare would put it more poetically, and indeed accessibly, than this. But I hope she’ll like it.

(Clare blogs at Keeper of the Snails, where writing, poetry, beauty and science intersect.)

1 thought on “To Clare: snail story

  1. Most interesting indeed… I Googled around after reading your entry and read elsewhere that the group have built a couple of Robosnails that can crawl up vertical walls (these prototypes hardly look as cute as Fig. 2 in the paper). The implications of such technology is mindboggling.

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