Snails & Slugs

Our days run in cycles of 24 hours. We sleep for about 8-10 hours and work and play for the remaining 14. So, we tend to group animals into a 24-hour cycle when we think about their sleeping pattern.

But the sleeping pattern of snails is quite different compared to that of humans. These gastropods (animals that have no spine and has a soft body with a flat base for moving and often has a shell) do not follow the same cycle as that of humans. Their sleep cycle lasts for 2-3 days.

Their sleeping pattern coincides with the weather conditions. Snails go into a deep sleep to avoid the harsh weather because they are dependent on moisture to survive. They hibernate during the cold winters and estivate during the summer.

During hibernation and estivation, they curl up inside their shell and secrete
a layer of mucous that keeps them protected from external conditions.

So unlike humans, they do not care about the sun’s schedule and don’t need to make up for lost sleep.

Both, snails and slugs are gastropods. However, one thing that sets them apart from each other is that snails have shells and slugs don’t.

Marvellous Aunt Maneka

Q. There are many dogs at the bus stop near my house. They climb all over me, so I chase them away with a stick. How can I avoid driving them away with a stick?

-Venky, 11 years, Borivali

aunt maneka

Dear Venky, This doesn’t seem like natural behavior for dogs. They normally don’t jump on anyone without good reason. You may be carrying food and eating it in front of them. You may have hit them several times. Another reason is that they like you and are coming to make friends with you. I suggest that you stand with an adult for a few days. Avoid looking at the dogs and ignore them when they come near. Do not eat anything there and if you wish to make friends with the dogs keep a few glucose biscuits which you can throw at them from a distance.

Q. I want to keep a tortoise as a pet but I don’t know what they eat. What should I do?

-Surabhi , 10 years, Kolkatta

aunt maneka

Dear Surbhi, It is illegal to keep tortoises as pets. They are scavengers in the water and they eat dead animals and alage. You cannot keep them alive for very long and its not right to take them out of their surroundings. They do not make good pets because they do not recognise human beings. They need sun and a specialised diet. If you want a pet, you can get a dog or cat.

Q. Can newspaper be used as bedding for my guinea pig? Is sunlight essential for him? How can I build a play area in my small house for him?

-Vipasha , 13 years, Hyderabad

aunt maneka

Dear Vipasha, You should be letting the guinea pig out to play all over the house. Guinea pigs don’t like being locked in cages. A newspaper bedding has to be done in many layers. But there should be some cloth bedding as well. It should be changed every day and the cloth must be cleaned out. If you take him/her out into the garden or the house then you won’t have this trouble. The guinea pig needs sunlight so let him/her roam around in sunlit areas. If you are unable to watch over your pet, then make a small enclosure in which he/she can play. Get them chew toys and things they can use to exercise.


If you have questions about pets/animals/birds, write to us and we’ll ask Aunt Maneka to answer

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Deep sea creature

Every birthday, we grow a year older. Our body also ages with time. This is true of most living beings, except a type of jellyfish that has the ability to reverse its life cycle!

Turritopsis dohrnii, a species of jellyfish lives in the Mediterranean Sea and in the waters around Japan. This small bell shaped jellyfish grows up to 4.5 mm in diameter as well as in height—that is about the size of a fire ant.

Generally, a jellyfish starts life as a polyp—a cucumber-shaped organism that attacks itself to the ocean floor or a coral reef. Depending on the species, a polyp takes between a week and a month to grow into an adult.

When an adult Turritopsis dohrnii is injured, it goes to the bottom of the ocean floor and transforms back into a polyp—its infant state. It does so by first retracting its tentacles and then gradually shrinking its body. Once it reaches its polyp state, it starts to grow back into an adult jellyfish. This makes the jellyfish immortal. It has the ability to do this over and over again, until it is either eaten by a predator or dies of some disease.

Turritopsis dohrnii has inspired scientists to use this process of “rebirth” to try and renew damaged or dead human tissues of a dysfunctional organ and restore it to its normal state.

Us and Them

Giant river otters are found in the rivers and creeks of north-central South America. They are the largest sub-species of otters and can grow as long as six feet. Otters are social animals and live in groups. Each group is called a family or bevy, and has about 3-20 members. The giant river otters are the chattiest species of otters and scientists believe that they have developed a large vocabulary because of the large families that they live in.

Giant river otters whistle to warn to other otter families in case of danger, hum or coo to reassure their group’s members or their young ones and also make ‘hah’ sounds to show interest.

Families of otters have a unique group song or chorus that they shout at other otter families in order to share their identity.

Young giant river otters are also capable of making 11 unique sounds, including some that are seen only in younger otters. For example, they squeak to attract attention. They also whine and wail while participating in group activities.


Marvellous Marvellous Aunt Maneka

Q. While eating, how do herbivorous animals recognize the poisonous plants from nonpoisonous plants?

-Loehith Gokul, 9 years, Atlanta

Marvellous Marvellous Aunt Maneka

A: Dear Loehith, Herbivores learn by watching their mothers and other group members eating. They must continuously taste food, even to that food to which they are used to because the nutrition’s and toxicity of plants change frequently. If the food does not cause the animal to feel ill, then they will continue eating the plant. For instance, deer and antelope always nibble a tiny part of a plant, then pause, and then continue to eat it if it is not poisonous. As poisonous plants are usually bitter, herbivores discover them in the first nibble and move on. This way they learn which plants are the best to eat. Elephants need a wide variety of foods to get all the nutrients. All elephants grow up in a herd and – learn what to eat and what can’t be eaten from their elders. They also learn where to go at what time of year to find certain foods. They also dig up minerals from the ground in order to supplement their diet.

Q. What food can I give to the squirrels living near my house?

Marvellous Marvellous Aunt Maneka

Rishika Agarwal, 11 years, Ranchi

A: Squirrels love peanuts, corn, carrot pieces, apples, seeds, any fruit, even small pieces of roti and cooked rice. You should give them food at the same time and place every day as all animals are creatures of habit and get used to a specific schedule. Don’t go near them. Just leave the food for them and observe from a distance.


Termite mounds

Termites are insects that live in colonies with a hierarchy similar to that of the bees: Queen, soldier, worker and larval termites. They live in either nests or mounds.

The mound-building termites build strong mounds that can be as tall as 25 feet and live in the lower part of the mound that is underground. Irrespective of the weather outside, the inside of the mound always remains cool at 30 degree Celsius because of a network of tunnels that make up its ventilation system. The tunnels extend across the length and breadth of the mound and are all connected to one big central tunnel that runs through the centre.

During the day, when the temperature rises, the air near the opening of the mound becomes warm. As hot air rises up through the tunnels, the cool air, being denser, sinks lower through the central tunnel. This keeps the temperature inside the mound cooler than outside. Termites control the temperature of their mound because they farm a type of fungus, which grows only in this temperature. This fungus is their main source of food.

Termite mounds can outlast the colonies that built them. Some mounds have lasted even up to 2000 years.



  •  A small cup (glass or steel)
  •  A big mixing bowl
  • A small, smooth stone
  • Plastic wrap
  • String or scotch tape .
  • 4 cups of drinking water
  • 2 tablespoons of salt



1. In the big mixing bowl, pour 4 cups of water and add 2 tablespoons of salt to it. Mix well till the salt dissolves.



2. Place the empty small cup in the centre of the bowl as shown. Make sure the salt water does not get into it.



3. Take the plastic wrap and cover the bowl. Seal the edges with string or tape.



4. Place the stone over the plastic wrap directly above the small cup so that the wrap slopes towards the centre. Now, place the bowl under the sun for a few hours.






In a few hours, water droplets will start forming beneath the plastic wrap. These droplets will slide towards the centre of the bowl and collect in the cup. If you drink this water, you will notice it does not taste salty.

Think about

How does salt water become drinkable?

Water can exist in three states: solid, liquid and gas, depending on how much energy the water molecules have. When the bowl is placed under the sun, the water particles at the top of the water surface gain energy from the sun and turn into gas (water vapour). This process is called evaporation. As the water vapour is blocked by the plastic wrap, the water particles begin to lose energy and transform back into water and collect beneath the wrap as water droplets. Since the wrap slopes towards the centre, so do the water drops which then collect in the cup. This water is pure because only water can evaporate and not salt, which is then left behind in the bowl.

Let’s Find Out

How is desalination useful?

The process of removing salt from saline water to make it suitable for human consumption or agriculture is called desalination. As the world’s population continues to grow, there is a need to find alteranate sources of drinking water since fresh water resources are limited. Scientists are tapping the sun’s energy and creating largescale structures similar to our experiment to get drinking water from the oceans, which make up more than 70 percent of the surface of Earth. If fresh water contains 1000 ppm (parts per million) of dissolved salts, ocean water contains about 35,000 ppm of dissolved salts.