Physical Contact Plays Crucial Role in Change of Sex among Snails

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

Researchers in a new Smithsonian study have finally found an answer to how snails called slipper limpets change sex, and they said that physical contact plays a major role in this change.

According to researchers, several animals change their sex at some point of their lives or after reaching a specific size. But these snails begin their life as males and change into females as they grow.

Researchers during their study found that when two males slipper limpets are kept together and they can touch one another, slowly with time the larger ones changes their sex and transforms into female snails. They even found that the smaller snails also change their sex when they grow.

Researchers stressed on the point that contact in this case is far more important than chemicals released into the water when two males are kept together and they make contact.

Sex change among animals is not any new thing previously clownfish, wrasses, morey eels and gobies have been known for switching their sexes.

Co-author Rachael Collin from Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) said, “I was blown away by this result. I fully expected that snails would use waterborne cues to see their world”.

According to study researcher, tropical slipper limpets, scientifically, called Crepidula cf.marginalis, live under the rock along the seashore and feed on plankton and other particles from the water.

The findings of the study published in The Biological Bulletin concluded that touch is highly important in letting a snail know it is big enough for a sex change, said researchers.