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Snails Can Change Sex with a Simple Touch

Update Date: Dec 30, 2015 10:59 AM EST
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As per a recent research, slipper snails have the ability to transform their sex. When two male snails stay close and touch each other, they become females. A large snail's transformation into a smaller one is much faster than the smaller ones. The end result of the research's finding is that the snails can alter their sex by simply touching each other. "I was blown away by this result," said co-author Rachael Collin from Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI). "I fully expected that snails would use waterborne cues to see their world." This article, co-authored by Collin and Allan Carrillo-Baltodano, former STRI intern and now post-doctoral student at Clark University, was published in The Biological Bulletin.

For the purpose of research, the authors of the study used different sized male snails. These snails were placed in a cup with seawater. Some cups allowed contact freely and others had a mesh that prevented a free contact between snails. The experiment results reveal that the bigger snails that had direct contacts with their partners developed into females more rapidly than the ones separated by a physical barrier. Meanwhile, the smaller snails displayed slower change of sex even when they had direct contact with the other snails, compared to the pair with a mesh separation. "Slipper snails don't move around much, so you don't really think of them having complex reactions to each other," said Collin. "But this study shows that there is more going on there than we thought." When a snail becomes female, its penis disappears and female organs are developed. The pattern is said to make sense as the large animals are able to generate egg cells as females and male snails are able to create large quantities of sperm even when they are small, reports the Tech Times

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