Snail Facts

15 Snail Facts About The Slimy Wonder

Most people find snails disgusting, but many consider them pests. You will have a newfound appreciation of these slowpokes through our snail facts.

One notable characteristic they have is that most snail species are hermaphrodites, possessing both female and male reproductive organs. Their anatomy allows them to reproduce with other individuals and provides great reproductive flexibility.

From their slimy mucus breaking into the skincare industry to snail caviar, these snail facts will change your attitude about these slimy wonders.

If you want more fun facts about slow animals, head to our list of sloth facts.

15 Surprising Facts About Snails

snail on a fruit
Photo by Krzysztof Niewolny on Unsplash

1. Over 40,000 snail species exist.

Snails are gastropods from the phylum Mollusca. They inhabit various environments, from rainforests to the ocean.

From the world's largest to the smallest snail, snails play essential roles in ecosystems by decomposing organic matter and recycling nutrients. Some species even feature in medical research, while some become pets.

Land snails have lungs, while freshwater and sea snails rely on gills. Furthermore, sea snails can extract oxygen through their skin to stay underwater and evade predators.

The African Giant Snail is the largest land snail, reaching almost 8 inches in length, and the Syrinx aruanus holds the record for the largest sea snail shell at 35 inches.

Explore other species of these gastropods through our article on the different types of snails.

2. Snails move surprisingly slowly.

garden snail on a leaf
Photo by João Costa on Unsplash

This snail fact is nothing new, but let's look into the specifics. On average, a snail can travel about a mile in 24 hrs. Common garden snails can move up to 50 yards in an hour. At the same time, the plough snail can move up to 1 inch per second.

External factors like temperature, humidity, and surface type can affect a snail's speed. They move faster in warmer environments with higher humidity and are quicker on smooth surfaces with less resistance. Terrestrial snails are most active during damp and humid conditions, such as at night or after rainfall, when the risk of dehydration is lower.

While snails may not be the fastest creatures, their steady pace shows that sometimes perseverance is more important than speed. In our snail quotes, read more about what people say about their slow take on life.

3. Snails’ name means "Stomach-foot."

Snails are a type of animal called gastropods. "Gastropod" comes from the Greek words that mean "foot" and "stomach," which describes their mode of movement. Their foot's steady contact with the ground and ability to secrete slimy mucus let them traverse various terrains easily, from rocky landscapes to lush gardens.

As part of the mollusk group, which includes other invertebrates, snails share specific characteristics like a soft body and a protective external shell. Gastropods are a diverse class of mollusks with over 60,000 species living in land, water, and sea.

4. The Giant African land snail is one of the largest snail species.

largest snail
Photo by Josch13 on Pixabay

As previously mentioned, the Giant African Snail (Achatina fulica) is one of the biggest land snails in the world. This creature can reach 7-8 inches (18-20 cm) long, and its shells can measure around 3-4 inches (7-10 cm) wide.

Originally from East Africa, specifically Kenya, and Tanzania, the Giant African Snail has entered many parts of the world due to its popularity in the pet trade. Incidentally, it has also become an invasive species in numerous countries.

These snails thrive in warm and humid environments, preferring areas with abundant vegetation that provide them with various food sources and ample shelter.

5. They have a mobile home.

Snails carry their homes on their backs, like turtles. Their spiral shells act as mobile houses, protecting them wherever they go. Each snail has a unique appearance with varying patterns on its shell. Garden snails, in particular, have light brown or yellowish shells with dark brown spiral markings.

Snails are like hermit crabs. The snail shells are made of calcium carbonate and grow as the snails grow. Their mobile homes comprise two layers: inner smooth and outer protective layers. Researchers have also unearthed a 99-million-year-old fossilized snail from Myanmar. This fossil contained a prehistoric land snail's shell, foot, and head, which is uncommon for fossils.

Learn more about another animal with a mobile home by reading our sea turtle facts.

5. Snails have a unique pair of eyes.

closeup of snail eyes
Photo by Victor Grabarczyk on Unsplash

Snails use their tentacle to navigate their environment. For example, land snails have tentacles on top of their heads–with eyes on the tips–while others have eyes at the base of their tentacles or inside their shells. Most land snails have two or more pairs of tentacles. Unlike land snails, marine snails only have one pair of tentacles.

Sea snails have eyes at the bottom of their bodies. However, snails don't have sharp vision like humans do. They mainly detect light and shadows, which helps them avoid predators and find food. 

To compensate for their limited vision, snails rely on their shorter tentacles, which they use to smell and feel their surroundings. Snail eyes contain a light-sensitive pigment and lens.

6. They use mucus to move.

Snails produce slimy mucus that many people find unpleasant. However, this mucus serves an essential purpose for snails. It allows them to move smoothly across surfaces, including rough terrain and vertical walls, by reducing friction and preventing injuries1

The mucus comprises water, proteins, and sugars; a special gland near the snail's mouth secretes the stuff. As snails move, they leave behind a shiny trail of slime that helps them stay moist, as they need moisture to survive. That's why land snails are often more active at night or when it's cloudy or rainy.

Discover other animals producing mucus by reading our jellyfish facts.

7. Snails have around 20,000 microscopic teeth.

This is a must-share snail fact! Despite their tiny mouths, garden snails surprisingly possess an average of 14,000 teeth; some species even have up to 20,000! These microscopic teeth, though not particularly sharp, are incredibly effective in cutting or scraping food, all thanks to a unique structure called the radula.

Speaking of food, what snails eat largely depends on their habitat. Land snails prefer munching on plant matter such as leaves and mushrooms, aiding in the breakdown of organic material. 

In contrast, aquatic snails reach for algae, fragments of plants, and even small creatures. Some bolder species, known as predatory snails, eat other invasive snails to control their population.

8. Snails are hermaphrodites.

snail hanging on a lavander plant
Photo by Dustin Humes on Unsplash

Most snails have both male and female reproductive organs. This unique trait allows them to mate with any individual of their species, increasing their chances of reproduction. They can thrive in isolated or low-density habitats because they don't rely on finding a specific mate. 

Some snails use "love darts" during courtship. These sharp features help transfer sperm more effectively, increasing fertilization success. While not essential for reproduction, love darts give an advantage to species with competition for mates4

9. The Cone snail is deadly.

Although most snails are not dangerous, certain species pose risks to humans and other animals under certain circumstances. For instance, the Cone snail, living in warm tropical waters, has venomous harpoons to immobilize prey. Although these aquatic snails usually don't threaten humans directly, some cone snails have highly potent and lethal venom.

Another concern is freshwater snails that carry the parasite Schistosoma, a type of flatworm. Millions of people across the globe suffer from schistosomiasis, a disease you can contract when coming into contact with water inhabited by infected snails. Schistosomiasis can cause symptoms such as fever, abdominal pain, and blood in urine or stool. It can also lead to long-term complications if left untreated.

10. Some snails are edible.

People have eaten edible snails as a delicacy for centuries. Edible snails include the garden snail, the Roman snail, and the Turkish snail.

The practice of eating snails, called "escargot," has a long history in Mediterranean and French cuisine. People cook snails with garlic, butter, and herbs to create delicious French escargot.

Snail caviar, made from the eggs of certain species, is a highly prized delicacy. The eggs are harvested, processed, and transformed into tiny, flavorful pearls. Many restaurants serve snail caviar. Like fish caviar, snail eggs are often a gourmet ingredient in the culinary world.

Many people might hesitate to eat snails, but snail meat is highly nutritious. Snail meat contains essential amino acids and minerals like calcium, zinc, and iron. Moreover, it also has less fat. So it is safe to say that snails are not only delicious but healthy as well3!

You will relate to the snail fact below if you are a skincare enthusiast.

11. Snail mucus is good for your skin.

Did you know that snail mucus or snail mucin is a primary ingredient in today's skincare products? It is precious to the cosmetic industry for its anti-aging, hydrating, and skin-repairing properties. 

Mucin, also known as snail slime, contains proteins, enzymes, hyaluronic acid, copper peptides, antimicrobial peptides, iron, zinc, and proteoglycans. Furthermore, it moisturizes your skin, combats aging, protects the skin barrier, soothes irritation, and potentially protects against skin cancer2.

South Korea is particularly famous for its use of snail mucin in skincare.

12. Snails can lay thousands of eggs.

pink eggs of a gastropod
Photo by Bernard DUPONT on Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0 (Cropped from original)

Snails can lay different numbers of eggs depending on the species and environment. Some lay a few dozen, while others lay hundreds or even thousands at once. The tiny eggs measure from a few millimeters to a couple of centimeters. Often snails die after they lay eggs.

Snail eggs are transparent, making them difficult for predators to spot. After a snail lays eggs, they develop before hatching into tiny snails called juveniles. The waiting time for these eggs to hatch depends on the species, temperature, and humidity.

Given the right circumstances, it may take several weeks before the eggs hatch. However, if the conditions are unfavorable, like during extreme cold or drought, the eggs may go dormant until conditions improve.

13. Snails hibernate.

Snails have fascinating sleeping habits. When faced with dry or unfavorable conditions, they can enter a state of estivation. This survival mechanism allows them to conserve energy and sleep for up to three years! 

During estivation, snails seal their shells with a protective membrane called an epiphragm. This membrane reduces water loss and helps them endure harsh conditions. The desert snail, Sphincterochila boissieri, can estivate for a decade until the right conditions for activity return.

Discover how other animals adapt to cold weather by heading to our hedgehog facts and hummingbird facts, or find out if squirrels hibernate.

14. Snail farming is a growing industry.

Another astonishing snail fact is the emergence of a thriving snail farming industry. Snail farming, or heliciculture, is gaining popularity as a sustainable food source. It is worth over $300 million today and has a lower environmental impact than traditional livestock farming. Moreover, snails require little space, water, and resources, making them practical for farming.

The global snail farming industry is expanding to meet food, cosmetics, and pet demands. Similarly, the increasing need presents possibilities for independent farmers, business owners, and regional economies, particularly in less urban areas.

15. Snails face threats of habitat loss.

slimy gastropod on white flowers
Photo by Krzysztof Niewolny on Unsplash

Snails are essential for ecosystems. However, habitat loss from urbanization, deforestation, and agriculture threatens many snails with extinction. Pesticide pollution harms their health and reproduction.

Conservation efforts protect snail species worldwide. Organizations and governments preserve snail habitats using sustainable land use and pollution regulations. Researchers study snail ecology to guide conservation strategies. Finally, public campaigns raise awareness, and citizen science initiatives involve people in monitoring snails. 

What facts about snails surprised you the most? Share them with your friends!

Related: To further explore the animal kingdom, check out some of the other animals that start with S.

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1

Ng, T., Saltin, S. H., Davies, M. G., Johannesson, K., Stafford, R., & Williams, G. A. (2013). Snails and their trails: the multiple functions of trail-following in gastropods. Biological Reviews, 88(3), 683–700.

2

Kim, Y., Sim, W., Lee, J. M., & Lim, T. (2022). Snail mucin is a functional food ingredient for skin. Journal of Functional Foods, 92, 105053.

3

Pissia, M. Α., Matsakidou, A., & Kiosseoglou, V. (2021). Raw materials from snails for food preparation. Future Foods, 3, 100034.

4

Koene, J. M., & Schulenburg, H. (2005). Shooting darts: co-evolution and counter-adaptation in hermaphroditic snails. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 5(1), 25.

Chinny Verana is a degree-qualified marine biologist and researcher passionate about nature and conservation. Her expertise allows her to deeply understand the intricate relationships between marine life and their habitats.

Her unwavering love for the environment fuels her mission to create valuable content for TRVST, ensuring that readers are enlightened about the importance of biodiversity, sustainability, and conservation efforts.

Fact Checked By:
Mike Gomez, BA.

Photo by Frederick Yang on Unsplash
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