Things that keep me awake at night…
When snails have sex they look like nasal conchae in coronal section.
Conchae and snails have
a lot two things in common: the word for these spiraling bones of the nasal cavity is homage to the shell they resemble and they both secrete a lot of mucus.
(See, the mental/visual leap is not that vast!)
Anyway, here’s how the sordid event plays out…
Many snails are hermaphrodites, they have both male and female reproductive organs, (although some marine snails have either male or female organs).
When one snail is feeling a little amorous they will slide slowly over to the other.
The horny snail will then…
buy the potential mate dinner
whisper sweet romantic nothings into their mates sensory organs
distribute tiny mucusy kisses and caresses
fire a long chitinous spike of evil into the flesh of said loved one.
Yes, that’s right, the spike is sweetly referred to as a “love dart”, but never-the-less it is a long, sharp arrow coated in mucus. (The reason why is explained later).
Assuming that the love dart misses a vital organ, and the target of desire survives this seemingly random bout of potentially fatal foreplay, the snails can get down to business. Each snail grows a large penis which they both introduced into the region of their partner’s genital apparatus (equivalent to the vagina) and sperm is released via a tube-like spermatophore. Warning: hardcore images here.
The sperm travel along the sperm-oviduct of the receiving snail until they reach a pouch at its end where they are stored until an egg arrives and fertilization can take place.
The mucus that covered the “love dart” is said to contain a mixture of hormones that increase the survival rate of a snail’s sperm in this pouch. Snails, therefore, that managed to harpoon their love interest are much more likely to be the parent of any subsequent offspring, especially when multiple snail partners are involved.
For more facts about snail reproduction head over to The Living World of Molluscs
Snail sex is being demonstrated by Brian and Snellie from SpongeBob Square Pants.