Terrestrial gastropods (snails) are creatures who fall in suspended animation and this process is considered natural. Hibernation of animals is of two types: seasonal and due to worsening external conditions.
The first option is typical for breeds that live in countries with a changeable climate. These include the Helix group. These include pomatia (grape snails), aspersa Maxima (large garden snail), aspersa Muller (small garden snail), etc.
Any breed is exposed to the second type of hibernation when their health or life is endangered due to unfavorable conditions. This question is especially relevant when breeding shellfish or keeping as pets.
How to know if a snail is hibernating
Sometimes inexperienced snail breeders have a question: it is not clear if the snail is just sleeping or in suspended animation? In fact, it is quite easy to determine this. While in hibernation, the body of the animal is completely hidden in the shell. In this case, the entrance to the shell is sealed with the so-called «epiphragm» (lime plug). It consists of thick mucus, lime particles and protein substances. Such protection performs two functions: it protects from external influences and serves as the first food after coming out of suspended animation.
It is the epiphragm that returns strength to a weakened mollusk, especially if hibernation lasted for several months.
Seasonal suspended animation
With the arrival of cold weather, snails prepare for winter sleep. As the temperature decreases (up to 12-14 ℃ for Helix pomatia), they prepare «chambers» for wintering in the soil, digging holes with a muscular leg. Depth — from 6 to 30 cm.
The duration of hibernation varies with weather conditions. If it gets cold early, then it’s mid-October If later then November. The duration of suspended animation is 4-6 months.
At the onset of heat, the mollusk unseals the epiphragm, eats it and gets out to the surface. This must be done quickly, since with an abundance of melting snow, the animal can drown. During the hibernation period, the snail loses about 10% of its mass. But literally over the next few days, she is gaining weight back, greedily eating all the surrounding vegetation.
Now the mollusk is completely ready for the new season and for mating.
Other causes of hibernation
If conditions are dangerous for snails in the environment, they can also plunge into suspended animation. The gastropods will remain in this state until the situation improves. So, let’s look at the most popular reasons:
- low humidity and lack of water;
- poor quality or unsuitable food;
- cold or heat;
The snail’s body is made up mostly of water, so keeping the water balance is extremely important. That is why climate technology is installed on closed-type farms that regulate not only temperature, but also humidity. At home, you need to be especially careful during the heating season, when the air is dry, as well as on hot summer days. Spray the sides of the clam with water regularly and refill the drinker.
Food is simple: feed your pets with seasonal vegetables and fruits. The ban is only for citruses due to high acidity. For the same reason, you need to be careful with tomatoes. Add calcium (powder feeding or calcium stone) to the diet, as well as protein products (gammarus, daphnia). Steam the ground cereals a couple of times a week. Do not under any circumstances feed your snails with salt or other foods outside of this list.
Extreme cold (as well as heat) are enemies for shellfish. For each type, the parameters of the permissible temperature are different. For example, if a grape snail does not tolerate indicators above 26-27 ℃, then for the giant African Achatina this is the norm.
Stress can be triggered by acclimatization or habitat change. Also, a similar reaction is observed with any cardinal changes (other soil, food, etc.)
Snail diseases that cause suspended animation are usually shell damage (or other trauma) or poisoning.
It is important to determine in time the cause of unplanned hibernation in the snail and eliminate it. Better yet, maintain proper containment conditions. And then your pet will delight with its activity.