Can estivation preferences be used to develop novel management tools against invasive Mediterranean snails?
Terrestrial snails that live in hot and dry climates have developed strategies to cope with high summer temperatures. Several species estivate during the warmest months of the years by resting on vertical supports, typically in groups. Understanding how snails choose their estivation sites and aggregate may lead to the development of new management tools in areas where these snails are invasive. Here, we investigated the preferences of four snail species for vertical supports varying in widths and heights under laboratory and field conditions, and tested whether the presence of conspecifics or snails of other species affected these preferences. The results show that the snails strongly preferred wider supports in laboratory dual-choice tests, and one species (Theba pisana) showed a consistent preference for taller supports as well. These results were confirmed in the field, where more snails were found on wider and taller supports 24 h after being placed in test quadrats. The percentage of snails found in groups on a support was strongly density-dependent. The presence of conspecifics or their mucus did not affect the choices of the snails, nor did the presence of snails of other species or their mucus. Taken together, these results could lead to the development of attractive supports that could be used to mass-capture snails in the field.