Snails that can shed their tails to escape much faster-moving predators and then regrow the amputated body section have been discovered living in sub-tropical Japan, a study said Wednesday.
The ability to shed body parts, similar to that found in lizards, crabs and earthworms, has never before been seen in a snail.
Masaki Hoso, a Netherlands-based fellow with the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, posted the findings on his website Wednesday, as his paper was published in the British science journal Proceedings of the Royal Society.
Hoso experimented with "isshikimaimai" snails (Satsuma caliginosa caliginosa) that live on the Okinawan islands of Ishigaki and Iriomote, by feeding them to predator snakes, called Pareas iwasakii.
"It was found that isshikimaimai often escaped predation by detaching their own tails" before hiding themselves inside their shells, he said on his website, adding the cut-off sections were regenerated "a few weeks later".
Hoso also put the same kind of snakes together with a different type of snails from another Okinawan island, about 120 kilometres (75 miles) west of Ishigaki, where there are no snail-eating snakes.
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