Year 13 biology students got up close and slightly personal with some giant African land snails for a recent practical project. They were studying habituation, where the brain learns to gradually ignore repeated stimuli.
The students worked with smaller two-year-old snails and a larger, five year old specimen. They were placed onto sterile trays and gently stroked between the eye stalks with a damp cotton bud. This caused their eye-stalks to retract and the students measured the time that it took for the snails to extend their eye-stalks again and repeated the technique.
Teacher Mr Hawksley said: ‘The snails learned that being stroked was not dangerous and they got used to it. We stroked them about ten times. Initially they retracted their eye stalks for up to 15 seconds and then, after a while they ignored it completely. This was a core practical research. The students have to write up the experiment, including aims and methods, as part of their assessed work. We also discussed the ethical considerations of working with living creatures including not handling them or causing them stress.’