A new research published in The Biological Bulletin shows that the species of tropical snails called slipper limpets ( Crepidula) start their life as males and later change to females. According to the scientists, this species of tropical male snails can transition to female, when they make physical contact.
The slipper limpets are known to live under rocks, on seashores and they feed with plankton and other food they can find in the water.
When the research was done, two male snails were kept together and other two male snails were kept separately. The largest of the two snails who were kept together, became female after the physical contact was done. The smaller snails kept their male gender for a longer period, even after being allowed to touch.
There is a reason for which they become female after they grow. For a small snail it is easy to produce sperm, while for a female snail to produce eggs requires a lot more energy than the one a small snail could be able to provide. The information provided by the research is important because it proves that when a snail is big enough and it touches another snail, marks the gender change.
One of the authors of the study, Rachel Collin, who is a scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, says that she was shocked by the study’s findings. She expected that the snails would use waterborne signals in order to see their world. Because the slipper snails don’t move a lot, they weren’t expected to have such interesting reactions to one another, but the study comes to show that there was more to them than met the eye.
The male snails of this species have large penises, which extend from one side of the snails’ head and they grow long enough to be able to reach around the female’s entire body. Their penis starts shrinking and the female organs start developing, when they make the transition from male to female.
As the news that these species of tropical male snails can transition to female, could have shocked you, find out that these are not the only animals that are known for their ability to change their sex. Wrasses, clownfish, gobies, moray eels and other fish species are among the interesting category of animals who not only change their sex, but they change their reproductive functions as well.
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