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The causes of behavioural handedness – Part 2: can it be learned?

Snail training; discover how and where to poke a snail with a stick (very gently to avoid sulking).

Snailtergeist

In the second part of my project, which I am now a couple of weeks into, I am exploring whether the innate turning preference of snails can be altered by training them to turn in a certain direction. To accomplish this, I have been given a group of inbred sinistral Lymnaea stagnalis raised in the lab, one of which has turned out to be a surprisingly majestic dancer.

These snails, like the famous Jeremy, also have reversed shells! Below is a photograph of one of the dextral snails from my first experiment and a sinistral snail from my second for comparison:

My new cohort of 23 lefty snails mostly got along fine in their new tanks with the exception of snail 11729 who hardly moved during initial observations and died shortly afterwards. We can only assume he has joined Jeremy in the sinistral snail afterlife.

Jeremy & E

To attempt to train the…

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The causes of behavioural handedness – Part 1: is it inherited?

Snailtergeist

Behavioural handedness is a part of everyday life that you probably don’t put much thought into. Roughly 90% of the population is right handed and prefer using their right hand for most manual tasks. As with most things handedness is not completely black and white and some prefer to use their non-dominant hand for some activities. Personally the only left thing about me is my political leaning. My left hand is useless and I favour my right for every task I can think of. As is common to right-handers, I also have a tendency to turn right upon entering a new environment. I share this behavioural bias with snail number 11714.

My masters project utilizes the pond snail Lymnaea stagnalis as a model organism to study the causes of behavioural handedness. This is a different species of snail to the famous Jeremy, although the snails I’m using for the second…

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Are Vitamins Vital?

Snailtergeist

Jeremy supplementsLike many people my age, I have fond memories of taking my daily vitamins as a child. The opportunity to eat a jelly sweet with a smiley face on it before breakfast was a welcome one, my favourite being Bassett’s soft and chewy in orange. It is still recommended by the NHS that children between the age of 6 months to 5 years should take supplements of vitamin A, C and D on a daily basis based on clinical evidence. The same recommendation however, is not made for adults. Despite the huge public interest in vitamin supplements (with an estimated public spend of £364 million in the UK each year), their supposed health benefits for the general public are somewhat dubious. While useful in some subgroups or for those with diagnosed deficiencies, many vitamin supplements consumed by the general public are at best a waste of money and at worst…

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