I have an arboreal snail whose diet consists of largely fruit, would it be feasible through its natural bodily processes it turns part of these fruits into palatable alcohol to secrete as a defense mechanism to ward potential predators off?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Even ignoring the question of its biological practicality, how would this work as a defense mechanism? Alcoholism is a problem for a reason. People like it. I could argue that the reason you don't see a creature like this in the wild today is that it became extinct less than a year after the mechanism evolved due to its popularity as a food source. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 15, 2018 at 18:36
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @JBH - you pose an interesting question and one which I think warrant reopening this. A snail is not a rat. Vertebrate frugivores like birds and mammals like alcohol and I am sure these would eat snails too. But what if the snail's main predators were not opportunist frugivores? Fruit flies defend themselves against parasitoids using ethanol. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3311762. Maybe snails too? $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Jul 15, 2018 at 19:26
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Willk Except the OPs question doesn't need a new answer so how does reopening it based on a comment further anything, unless there's an edit to include the material raised by JBH in the Question? $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Jul 15, 2018 at 19:59
  • $\begingroup$ You asked a similar question recently. It seems to me all you want is people telling you: Yeah, go ahead, I would believe that in a story! While I don't why there should be anything wrong with asking such questions, I want to point out that you might get more benefit if you asked about more specific issues you have or point out what doubts you have, why you need reinsurance in the first place. For example, you could ask if this exists in nature in some variant or why not exactly like that, I assume you mean ethanol, that's a common and simple molecule, why don't snails use it? $\endgroup$
    – Raditz_35
    Jul 15, 2018 at 20:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Raditz I guess I should be more specific, the community helps me pinpoint flaws in my designs. I can see how they may come across as needing reassurance. $\endgroup$
    – Thalassan
    Jul 15, 2018 at 20:30

1 Answer 1


A frugivorous snail could definitely use alcohol to defend itself. Fruit flies do this now.

Alcohol Consumption As Self-Medication Against Blood-Borne Parasites In The Fruitfly

Here, we show that exposure to ethanol reduces wasp oviposition into fruitfly larvae. Furthermore, if infected, ethanol consumption by fruitfly larvae causes increased death of wasp larvae growing in the hemocoel and increased fly survival without need of the stereotypical anti-wasp immune response... Finally, fly larvae seek out ethanol-containing food when infected, indicating they use alcohol as an anti-wasp medicine. Although the high resistance of D. melanogaster may make it uniquely suited to exploit curative properties of alcohol, it is possible that alcohol consumption may have similar protective effects in other organisms.

Fruit fly larvae have really amazing ethanol tolerance. I once did a home brew cryogenics experiment and found that fruit fly could survive living in vodka-soaked food if they had enough water once they came around. Exploiting that tolerance to kill parasites makes sense. It also makes sense that other organisms which live in rotting fruit might use ethanol the same way and I am specifically thinking of slugs.

High school research project!

1: Acquire slugs from rotten fruit.

2: Incubate some with ethanol and fruit, others with just fruit.

3: Offer slugs to harvestmen - spiderlike slug predators. Do the harvestmen reject the boozy slugs?

Back to the question - yes, very plausible and very cool.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .