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Some marine snails soar through the water by flapping their squidgy appendages to and fro, similar to butterfly wings — now, scientists have discovered that the shape of the snails’ shells also helps them zip through the sea.

The new study, published Sep. 7 in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science, shows that large snails with slim, elongated shells cut through the water more quickly than small snails with round, coiled shells. The small snails swim slower, in part, due to their small wings, but their size and speed also make it so they can’t easily overcome resistance from the surrounding water, study author David Murphy, an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering of the University of South Florida, told Live Science in an email. “The larger snails can easily overcome the effects of this viscosity,” or the water’s resistance to flow, and those with streamlined shells cut through the water even more easily, he said. 

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