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Ruth Brooks

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This year's books about snails

2013 has been a momentous year for me as the publication of Molluscs and Me was a long time coming. Gestation was slow and the birth painful but, for me, it was as worth the wait as any new baby:

ImageThe ebook and paperback are both selling well and feedback has been very good.

A Slow Passion is the delightful book by Ruth Brooks who won the amateur scientist of the year competition on Radio 4 with her work on snail homing instinct. I would highly recommend this as a good read for anyone interested in the behaviour of very small animals. Snails are proving to be a popular creature for university students to study at both under and post-graduate level. As Ruth showed us, their behaviour is fascinating and they've also been adopted by forward looking primary schools where science is an integral part of the curriculum rather than something the children 'do' once a year in science week.

Then I found Elisabeth Tova Bailey's 'The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating' - such an engrossing study of snail behaviour carried out from the confines of a sick bed, which has some similarities with Ruth's book in its detailed observations but of a single captive mollusc rather than a wild population.

Altogether it's been a very good year for snail books.

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Does travel broaden a snail's mind?

Did you know there’s a whole industry devoted to pet travel? There are even pet travel agencies. So if your dog wants to take a break in the country there is a company who will organise that for him. I only found this out because I was trying to find a company that would transport some snails for me. That’s when I met the dreaded lists of prohibited items. I wasn’t surprised by the explosives and I guess taking a lion or giraffe for a ride would require an expert. But why on earth live animals of all kinds are excluded I just don’t understand. All I wanted was a van to bring me 5 big cardboard boxes. If I hadn’t told them what was inside they would never have known. The snails will be peacefully slumbering so they won’t be able to watch the world go by.

When I buy beautiful snails from France to lay eggs for me, I’ve often wondered if they get homesick. Now that Ruth Brooks has shown they have a homing instinct (http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/features/sywtbas/2010/ruth/) I wonder how long it is before they get used to being transplanted. Do they gaze wistfully south and sniff the wind when the weather’s cold? When they climb the sides of their pen are they heading for the A2 hoping to hitch a lift across the channel? After a while do they come to feel attached to our particular corner of East Kent?

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