Can snails go backwards? © Getty Images

Can snails go backwards?

They can be rather sluggish.

Asked by: Neil Edwards, Guildford

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No. Snails and slugs move by contracting tiny muscles in their ‘foot’ in sequence, generating a wave that moves from front to back. As the wave moves back, different parts of the foot take it in turns to grip the ground and pull the animal forward. Gastropods have a very simple nervous system and this contractile sequence is hard-wired, therefore there is no mechanism for reversing the direction of the wave. Also, the slime gastropods create is secreted from glands at the front of their foot. Moving backwards would force the snail to drag itself over dry ground, which would reduce grip and increase abrasion damage to the foot. Snails and slugs are very flexible anyway and can easily turn around on the spot if they need to retreat.


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