How can you tell if a snail is dead?

Summer is right around the corner, and I’m getting all excited to start working with our new REU students.  This is a good time to remind myself of the importance of clear communication.  I am continually surprised by how what I thought I said was not at all what I actually said when what I said was interpreted by someone else.  You see?  All very clear.

Relatedly, how can you tell whether a snail is dead?  Well, if you haven’t worked with snails for very long, I can tell you that it’s surprisingly difficult!  For instance, when I was an undergrad, my friend and I went out and collected dozens of snails, only to return to lab to find that we had collected dozens of empty snail shells that were full of mud.  Oops.

I now have some standardized tests for snail aliveness.  This isn’t on my office door yet, but its only a matter of time.


Last year, I apparently had a communication breakdown, and I didn’t explain how to identify the snail species that I wanted everyone to collect.  Unsurprisingly, I ended up with more than I bargained for on that collecting trip!  Here’s a cartoon that I made after that.  For the few snail nerds that will stumble upon this blog, have you ever noticed how deceivingly Helisoma-ish Physa snails can look?