Snails aren’t very brainy, even compared to cows. There’s the question of whether they can even be said to have a brain. They have a nervous system which has a clump of neurons at the head end, which might be a brain. Or it might just be an aggregation of nerve cells, a mere ganglion. We have similar clusters in our nervous system. One example is the solar plexus, located in the abdomen just below the diaphragm. It does a lot of very important work but you wouldn’t call it a brain.How can snails be farmers? Surely they’re so simple they could never do anything that implies planning and foresight. The answer doesn’t deal with what the snails are thinking, only what they’re doing. The marsh periwinkle, one species of farming mollusk, grows a special fungus for its own consumption. The field it tills is a marsh grass called Spartina, which the snail grazes on twice. The first time it cuts a groove in the flesh of the grass and plants the spores of the fungus with its fecal pellets. The second pass is when the snail eats the fungus which has grown vigorously in the exposed flesh of the grass. The snail plants the fungus whether it means to or not. Vital nutrients are provided by the fecal pellets. The fungus grows and the snail reaps abundant, nutritious food. Even if it’s accidental it’s still farming. While some animals are surprisingly like humans in their agricultural practises, there are others that still outdo us in technology. Human scientists practising biomimetics, where they try to imitate how nature is doing something, are just now equalling the stickiness of gecko feet, for instance. The same is true for fiber optic cables, which are presently made at high temperatures and have the problem of being brittle. In nature a so-called glass sponge makes fibers at normal temperatures which transmit light just as well but are tougher and more flexible.
Sponges and snails. Good company to be in.