Saturday, September 06, 2014

Maternity ward, underwater

Mike and Tillie, the large snails in my aquarium, have been together for 6 months now, and may be on the verge of becoming parents. They've been trying for a long time, at least in snail years.

Tillie has been here since last summer, and I brought Mike home in April of this year. By the end of April, Tillie had laid her first batch of eggs. Nothing came of them, though. Sometime around June, I scraped them off the wall, hardened and broken, dead.

She laid two more batches, on and behind the pump at the top of the tank, where I could monitor them closely. Nothing happened; they sat there until they shrunk and died. No snails showed up. (The ones I'd found on the beach two years before had one tiny infant snail on them, so I know these should be visible when they hatch.)

The pair kept trying. They like the pump site, and have glued down three more groups of eggs there. Numbers 4 and 5 were duds, too; buttery yellow vases with nothing happening inside.

But the eggs in batch number 6 are alive, growing and moving about inside their little "jugs", and almost out of room. Any time now . . .

Laying the second batch of eggs on the pump, in July.

A few eggs are visible, but they never developed beyond that stage.

Batch number 6, three days ago. One case is smooth and beautiful, but empty. In the others, eggs and darker snails are visible.

When I watch these, I can see movement, but it is so slow that I wonder if it was just my imagination, or my eyes getting tired. But I go away and come back half an hour later, and the babies are in different positions.

Day before yesterday. Compare the positions of the snails and remaining yellow eggs (or yolks?).

Yesterday. There are more dark snails, and they've moved about quite a bit.

And I continue to check on them every hour or so. At the last check, one of the lower cases had a crack in the pointed tip.

While we wait, here are the propective parents:

Mike, on sea lettuce in a bowl.

Tillie, stretching the surface of the water.

Now there's a third snail, the same species, in the tank; slightly smaller, very clean. A youngster. He/she has shown great interest in the egg laying activity, hanging around an inch away, but never attempting to take part. Nor does s/he attempt to mate with either of the other two. It makes me wonder; are these snails monogamous?

So many questions!


  1. Fascinating observations, Susannah! And as always, your photos are terrific.

  2. I wonder if the third snail was smelling a potential source of food? But that's probably not it since the eggs are there the next day. Great macros as always!


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