Ed Driscoll

Of Mucus Daggers and Snail Sex

“Being Stabbed with a Mucus Dagger Is Not Even the Worst Part of Snail Sex,” Discover magazine reports, going deep inside the hot and heavy world of copulating gastropods:

A love dart is a sharp dagger that a snail builds in its body out of calcium carbonate. Before mating, the snail thrusts this dart out of itself and straight into its partner’s flesh. A love dart is not related to a penis (each snail has one of those, too) and doesn’t carry sperm. It’s pure weaponry. You might see a fired dart still jutting from a snail’s neck while it copulates, as in the right-hand snail below:

Love darts are coated in mucus, like poison-tipped arrows. In some species, scientists have discovered that this mucus acts on the female organs inside the snail receiving the dart. It seems to encourage the female parts to store the sperm they’re about to receive. This means love darts may help potential snail fathers edge out the sperm from all the other snails their partners have mated with.

So stabbing one’s mate with a love dart is in the best interest of the sperm donor, but not necessarily the sperm recipient. It give the sperm donor a paternity boost instead of letting the recipient pick and choose which sperm it stores. It’s also quite violent. “In species bearing a relatively large dart, snails retract [their bodies] rapidly when they are stabbed, suggesting strong pain,” says Kazuki Kimura. A researcher at Japan’s Tohoku University, Kimura wanted to find out whether love darts truly hurt their recipients—not just in the moment, but over the rest of their lives.

Sounds kinky! I can’t wait to see the video version of this article. Except that I already have, decades ago:

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