Snails are common and widespread animals. Since they are highly adaptable animals, you can find them almost everywhere. Some familiar places we can find snails are fields, gardens, riverbanks, and suburban areas. Snails are mollusks, and they belong to the class Gastropoda. As gastropod mollusks, we can identify specific characteristics they each possess, such as a soft body and a hard shell.
They also have strong muscular foot which supports creeping locomotion. Although many people are most familiar with land snails, many different types of snails exist in our world.
You may be surprised to know that over 40,000 snail species exist globally. We have land snails, freshwater snails, and sea snails. Snails fall under specific categories that explain their living and eating patterns. This article will examine some snail species by breaking them into their categories.
Related: Also, check out our selection of the best fish quotes for underwater inspiration and information and facts on land pollution and water pollution for further understanding of the world snails live in and our impact on it.
Various research findings provide varying results on the number of snail species out there. However, a recurring number is over 40,000 snail types. They range from large to small species and terrestrial to aquatic. Furthermore, researchers have classified these snail types into three main groups or categories.
These are land snails, sea snails, and freshwater snails. As the names suggest, land snails reside on land, and sea snails reside mainly in seas. Freshwater snails adapt to bodies of freshwater such as rivers, ponds, and lakes.
Regardless of these categorizations, you should keep in mind that some other snail species are amphibians. Therefore, they can adapt to both land and water habitats.
Quick links to the types of snails we've featured below:
This section will examine the three main categories or types of snails.
The land snail is probably the most common snail type that exists. There are various land snail types that we can find in places like gardens and agricultural lands.
Typically, the land snail will feed on decaying plants and leafy vegetables. This snail type has evolved to adapt and transition to life on land.
A common characteristic of these snails is their ability to produce mucus to help them crawl. This substance also keeps their bodies moist. Under this category, we can find the garden snail, giant African land snail, and white garden snail, amongst others. There are many edible species here.
Sea snails consist of a diverse group of snail species that largely reside in saltwater. Most sea snails possess gills that help them breathe underwater. However, some possess lungs enabling them to breathe.
Many of them can switch between staying in the sea and on land, making them highly adaptable. They come in many shapes, sizes, and beautiful colors. The crown conch and Atlantic moon snail are sea snail examples.
The third category of snails based on habitat is freshwater snails. These gastropod mollusks reside in freshwater bodies. Their habitats include rivers, lakes, and ponds. You can also find freshwater snails in freshwater aquariums. As a result, many people keep them as pets in home aquariums. Apple snails and mystery snails fall under the freshwater snail category.
The giant African land snail, or simply the giant African snail, is an invasive species of snail. Apart from the fact that they damage agricultural crops, they also reproduce at high rates.
The giant African snail is the largest land snail species, with an average of 8 inches in length. The Guinness World Records recorded one in 1978, which was 15.5 inches in length. Overall, they are one of the largest snail species in the world.
Originally native to Africa, you can find these snails on almost every continent. Giant African snails sometimes have a light brown shell, while others have a darker shade. Most snails of this type have dark brown stripes. Interestingly, they will sometimes eat snails, but not of the same species.
The white garden snail usually resides in sandy coastal regions. You’ll most likely find it in Western Europe and the Mediterranean region.
These snails have an opaque-looking body with ivory yellow shells that curve to the side a bit. Their shells also have brown spiral lines.
Like the giant African snail, the white garden snail is also an invasive creature. They often aggregate in groups, and many people consider them pests. The white garden snail is an edible snail.
The Mediterranean green snail, which some people refer to as the green garden snail, is a common snail type. As the name suggests, these snails are native to the Mediterranean region in Europe and also parts of Africa.
Since they’re herbivorous, they eat various types of plants, such as leafy vegetables and cereal crops. Mediterranean green snails can grow up to 5 inches in length.
Garden snails are native to the Mediterranean region. You’ll also find them in parts of Asia and northern Egypt. This small species can grow up to 1.3 inches in length.
Their shell pattern distinguishes them from other snails. Their shells have a burnt yellow color with dark brown spiral stripes. These snails feed on flowers, bushes, cereal grains, and fruit trees. Due to their diet, they tend to cause a ton of damage to crops on a farm.
The Roman snail is a popular edible snail. Many people also call it the burgundy snail. Once upon a time, you could only find them in Europe. Today, you can find the burgundy snail in various parts of the world.
The Roman snail’s shell has a cream or light brown color with darker brown bands. They have bulky shells that constitute two-thirds of their body weight. Roman snails enjoy staying in temperate forests with minimal rainfall and humid temperatures.
White lipped snails are medium-sized terrestrial snails. A distinguishing feature they possess is a white band at the top opening of their shells. On their shells, you’ll see around five brown bands. White lipped snails come in various colors; however, the most common ones have yellowish or pinkish hues.
These snails are hermaphrodites and typically live in damp habitats. The white lipped snail eats hogweed, nettles, and ragwort.
Also known as the Spanish snail, the milk snail is a large type of snail. These terrestrial snails have white or light brown-looking shells with dark textured stripes. These are also edible snails that people include in their diets.
The milk snail is prominent in Europe; however, you’ll also find it in parts of Northern Africa. This type of snail typically feeds on green vegetables, including celery, lettuce, and cabbage.
The common whelk is a large snail. Its shell can go up to 3.9 inches high and 2.4 inches wide. Its natural habitat is around coastal areas, and it enjoys staying in sandy seabeds.
This snail’s conical shell comes in various colors. Some can be white, while others are yellow or red-brown. Their shells also have wavy lines that form a pattern. As carnivorous animals, common whelks often eat worms, crustaceans, and mollusks.
Common periwinkles are small marine snails. Their shells have an oval-looking shape with spiral lines and pointed ends. Their shell colors vary from grey to grey-brown hues. In terms of size, common periwinkles can grow up to around an inch long. You’ll often find them along shorelines or in-between rocks.
These snails can survive on land for several days, and they stay moist by closing their shells. Although small, they are adaptable and can survive in harsh conditions. They often feed on algae.
Also known as the bubble raft snail, this snail stands out with its beautiful shell. Its shell consists of tints and tones of light and dark purple. These snails exist in various parts of the world, often in warm water bodies. They often move in large groups and reside at the water’s surface.
They are about 1.6 inches long. The violet sea snail eats various types of jellyfish. Early in their lives, they exist as males. As they grow, they transition into females.
Geography cone or conus geographus is the most venomous snail and a part of the predatory snail species. It is the most deadly of the hundreds of cone snail species, with sizes ranging from 4 to 6 inches long. They have white and brown shells that many shell collectors appreciate.
Their venom contains different toxins that can immediately paralyze their fish prey. They are also quite dangerous to humans. According to National Geographic, there is no antivenin for cone snail stings. Caretakers often have to care for the victims till the venom wears off.
Mystery snails are a collective of aquarium snails that many people often keep with their pet fish. These aquarium snails come in many forms and colors and often grow to about 3 inches.
They mainly eat decaying plants as opposed to some snails that eat healthy plants. Not only are they easy to care for, but they also help to keep fish tanks clean by clearing out algae. They also eat greens like kale and spinach. Within the mystery snail species, you’ll commonly find the gold Inca snail.
Rabbit snails are some of the most interesting freshwater snails that exist. Like mystery snails, they help to clean out tanks by feeding on algae. A common characteristic that rabbit snails have is their long shell.
You’ll find snails within his group with varying colors, from black to red. Similar to rabbits’ long ears, these snails have dropping antennae. They also have distinct long faces that separate them from the regular snail appearance. They grow to about 3 inches long.
Also known as the golden apple snail, this snail has a bold yellow shell that makes it stand out. The golden apple snail is native to South America; however, you can also find it in various parts of the world. Since they feed on rice, especially in the Southeast part of Asia, many consider them pests. Golden apple snails are highly adaptable to their environment. They also reproduce easily.
Snails come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. In this section, before we get into the types of snails in each category, here you’ll discover some unique-looking, even cute snails with beautiful shells and colorful appearances.
This cute snail has a beautiful white shell featuring stripes in the colors purple, orange, black, red, and yellow. It measures up to about 2.4 inches in length. The candy cane snail’s primary habitat is in trees on the islands of the Caribbean. This terrestrial snail heads down to the soil to lay eggs. Once the younglings hatch, they climb trees to reside there.
These animals primarily reside deep in the ocean. They have curled shells and flaps called parapodia that enable them to escape from predators quickly. Due to the way they swim, people identify them as flying snails.
This freshwater snail resides in streams and mangrove forests in the Philippines. Nerite snails’ shells have unique zig-zag patterns of black, red, and yellow. They mainly feed on dead plants and algae.
Beyond the garden snails we often encounter, the world is home to thousands of snail species. In this article, we’ve highlighted some of the many types of snails - from large to small ones and land to aquatic ones.
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.