New Farmers: Salt marsh snails plow leaves, fertilize fungus | Science News

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New Farmers: Salt marsh snails plow leaves, fertilize fungus

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11:00am, December 3, 2003

People and insects aren't the only creatures on the planet that can grow a fungus for dinner. A salt marsh snail works the leaves of a plant in what researchers say looks like a simple form of farming.

The snail Littoraria irrorata saws long gashes down the narrow leaves of the dominant plants in East Coast salt marshes. It doesn't eat the fresh tissue but instead waits until fungus riddles the leaf wound, explains Brian Silliman of Brown University in Providence, R.I. Snail droppings boost the amount of fungus that grows in the cut, say Silliman and Steven Y. Newell of the University of Georgia Marine Institute on Sapelo Island. They report in an upcoming P

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