Slow and oh so tender

Slow and oh so tender

I encountered these snails on one of my last walks and of course couldn’t resist but to do some research on snail sex. Three facts for the science nerds among you:

First, most terrestrial snails are simultaneous hermaphrodite. This means they are both male and female and try to impregnate each other at the same time. This sounds romantic – but isn’t, as we will see.

Second, snails love foreplay. They are almost blind, so they depend on their olfactory and taste senses to find and get to know each other. This “mating dance” can last unto six hours. A “prenuptial conference over the terms of the union” in the words of the biologist Prof David George Haskell. Yet, the debate is not about kinks or positions. Instead, snails try to figure out who’s top or bottom. Taking over the male part takes over less energy than the female part, which introduces a dark question to the dance…

Three. After losing their virginity, snails learn to build a “love dart.” This is no euphemism for what you see in the picture. Instead, love darts are long, calcareous or chitinous structures that snails stab their partner with. This poisonous dagger offers the wedding gift, a pheromone-like mucus asking the bride not to be the groom.

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