The frictional and adhesive properties of the shells of terrestrial hairy snails

Hair‐like structures of the shell in some terrestrial snails have been suggested to represent an adaptive advantage. One of the recently proposed explanations was the hypothesis that the possession of hairs facilitates the snails' adherence to the leaves of the plants during foraging, when humidity levels are high. In order to obtain some reliable data to test this contact mechanics hypothesis, the present paper deals with the frictional and adhesive properties of the smooth and hairy shells of two species of terrestrial mollusks, Trochulus hispidus and T. villosulus. Additionally, actively generated traction force of the snails was measured on different substrates. The conducted experiments revealed that in wet conditions the hairiness indeed increases friction and that adhesion through the water film is high enough to retain the weight of the snail. However, possession of long hairs decreases the adhesion, in comparison with the animals with short hairs. Our data suggest that hair‐like structures require more energy expenditure during locomotion and only provide the advantage of higher adhesion on wet substrates. Obtained maximal traction forces were about 30 times higher than friction forces of the shell surface dragged over the substrate. Neither wetting condition of the substrate nor surface roughness had considerable effect on the traction forces of snails. Therefore, the function of the hair‐like structures seems not to be related with snail locomotion and adhesion.



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