Snails are known as the epitome of slowness and laziness in most parts of the world. Characterized by the shells they carry around and the trail of mucus they leave behind, most of these species are not harmful to humans. Here are some more fascinating snail facts to keep you entertained.
1. Snails Primarily Feed on Decaying Matter
Given the many snail species available, their feeding habits vary widely. While some are specialist feeders, most are generalists, feeding on decaying organic matter such as worms, feces, centipedes, carrion, fungi, and even other slugs.
2. A Snail Once Hibernated for Four Years
Snails are known to be heavy sleepers. But even so, they can hibernate for an average of two to three days. However, a certain snail made history when it hibernated for four years. Assuming that it was dead, the snail from Egypt was put in a British museum, where it stayed for about half a decade before it “woke up.”
3. Different Types of Snails Are Available
Land, sea, and freshwater snails are the main types of these mollusks. As the name suggests, land snails refer to any species that live on land; they are a polyphyletic group characterized by about ten independent evolutionary transitions to terrestrial life. Sea snails have spirally coiled external shells, including whelk or abalone.
4. The Agate Snail Is the Biggest Land Snail
Also known as Achatina achatina, the agate snail is the biggest land snail. According to the Guinness World Records, the largest specimen measured about 39.3 centimeters (1ft 3.5in). Weighing about 900 grams, the snail was collected in Sierra Leone in June 1976.
5. Most Snails Are Hermaphrodites
Most snail species have both male and female sexual organs, making them hermaphrodites. On the contrary, some, such as the New Zealand mud and apple snail, are dioecious, meaning they are either male or female. Interestingly, even the hermaphrodite snails need partners to mate.
6. Garden Snails Can Pass over a Razor Blade Unhurt
Garden snails are probably the only crawling animals that can pass over sharp objects such as razor blades unhurt.
7. Snails Have Shells
Most snail species have shells that they use to protect themselves from danger, and it’s their natural home. Even though they are all slimy and leave trails of mucus wherever they travel, snails that don’t have visible external shells are called slugs.
8. Some Snail Species Are Super Venomous
Generally, snails are docile animals that don’t bother humans. However, specific species, such as cone snails, are not to mess with. Studies show they are one of the most venomous animals in the world, with the ability to pierce through a wetsuit. Medical experts use their venom to create a potent painkiller that serves as an alternative to morphine.
9. They Are Amongst the Slowest Animals
Together with sloths and tortoises, snails are among the slowest creatures in the world. On average, a snail can travel a mile a day. Some factors affecting their speed include humidity, environment, temperature, and the snail species.
10. Snails Have Unique Eyes
Land snails have eyes on top of their tentacles attached to their heads. Compared to humans, a snail’s vision is not as sharp; it usually detects lights and shadows to gain a sense of direction and avoid predators. The tentacles help them to smell their environment.
11. Snails Have Teeth
Despite having very tiny mouths, snails have tens of thousands of microscopic teeth. They are not particularly sharp and are, therefore, inefficient for chewing.
12. Some Snail Species Are Edible
Especially in some Asian, Mediterranean, and French communities, some snail species are a delicacy. The edible ones include Turkish, Roman, and garden snails. Today, the cuisine is so popular and profitable that some people, for example, Moroccans, Indonesians, and Kenyans, have resorted to snail farming. The active practice of cooking and eating snails is called escargot.
13. Snail Mucus Is Popular in the Cosmetic Industry
As snails move, they usually leave behind a trail of mucus, which some humans, especially in the cosmetic industry, find useful. There is a widespread belief that allowing a snail to crawl over a person’s skin/face prevents dehydration, repairs the skin, and prevents aging.
14. Snails Reproduce by Laying Eggs
Snails reproduce by laying transparent (this makes it hard for predators to spot them) eggs, sometimes thousands of them. Most snail species die after laying the eggs, which hatch after several weeks, depending on the type. Factors such as humidity and temperature can also affect the time it takes for the eggs to hatch.
15. A Sea Snail Once Hatched and Grew Inside a Boy’s Knee
While on a family trip, a little boy named Paul Franklin fell and scraped his knee at a beach. Several weeks later, the knee started swelling. A visit to the doctor resulted in an infection diagnosis and antibiotics prescribed to the patient. Contrary to expectations, the swelling continued, forcing the boy’s mother to squeeze the affected area. To their surprise, a grown snail popped out. Paul adopted the snail and named it “Turbo,” his favorite cartoon character.
16. There are Extremely Small Snails
While some species, such as the agate snail, can be humongous, some are so tiny that they can fit through a needle’s eye. For instance, the Angustopila dominika has a shell measuring 0.03 inches, making it one of the smallest in the group.
17. The Anus of a Snail Is on Its Head
Unlike most creatures, snails have their anuses on their heads, closer to their mouths.
18. Snails Can Cause Parasitic Diseases
Over time, snails have been linked with causing parasitic diseases such as fascioliasis, schistosomiasis, and paragonimiasis, which can affect humans, too.
19. Snails Are Used to Depict Laziness and Slowness
Due to their never-hurrying nature, different cultures worldwide use snails to depict slowness and laziness. Metaphorically, when someone says “at snail’s pace,” it means the process is slow or inefficient.
20. Some Snails Can Be Petted
Historically, humans have petted some snail species, with the most popular one being Leffy, a garden snail kept and investigated by biologists because of its unique shell.
21. Some Snails Can Survive Through Birds’ Digestive System
Birds are some of the snails’ biggest predators. Interestingly, some snail species have adaptations that allow them to survive through birds’ digestive systems; experts have found them alive in their predators’ droppings. This is probably one of the ways through which snails spread their population.
22. A Boy Once Caused an Ecological Crisis in Miami By Smuggling and Releasing Snails
A young boy once smuggled two gigantic African snails from Hawaii to Miami. When his guardian found out, she took the creatures and threw them into the garden. This marked the genesis of an ecological crisis, as the snails reproduced and spread throughout the region. In the end, the authorities used over $1 million and took a decade to eradicate the menace. They could not put up with the snails’ foraging behavior.