10 Incredible Snail Facts

Written by Jennifer Gaeng
Published: June 25, 2022
Image Credit Stepan Bormotov/Shutterstock.com
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Apple snail in lake Asia
Snail shells display bilateral symmetry, spiraling either to the right or the left.

Asian Images/Shutterstock.com

In this article, we are going to talk about snails! While many people assume that these tiny little guys are just slugs with shells, they are often unaware of just how fascinating they really are. Snails have a wide variety of sizes, shapes and species, and serve a key role in our environment. Not only are they a natural fertilizer, but they also help maintain ecosystems for other animals. Their slime is also becoming increasingly popular in cosmetology, used for both products and procedures. While all of that may sound cool enough in itself, there are a lot more incredible facts about these slimy beauties. So, let’s learn more about these amazing creatures!

1. There Are Over 40,000 Different Types of Snails

Pond Snail (Lymnaea stagnalis)
The pond Snail (Lymnaea stagnalis) is one of over 40,000 species of snails!

iStock.com/VitalisG

While many people picture garden snails when they think of snails, there are a lot more than just those out there in the world. In fact, there are over 40,000 distinct species of snails! They vary in size, colors, and even location. Snails can range anywhere from less than 1 inch in size to over 15 inches in size. They can also live in many different habitats, both on dry land and in water. While the exact number is unknown, it has been said that there is at least a minimum of 43,000 in the world today. And this doesn’t even include slugs!

2. They Can Live in Seawater, Freshwater, or on Land

Astrea Snail or Astraea
The astrea snail is a saltwater species, but there are many species that prefer land or freshwater.

iStock.com/vojce

Some of the more common snails can be found on land, as well as some of the more exotic species, but there are also snails that can live in seawater and freshwater. Sea snails are composed of an exceptionally large group of snails that live in salt water and they also have several varieties within themselves. These snails can also have very colorful shells that are often disguised as a rock in the water, a perfect disguise to hide away from predators. Freshwater snails are a large group of snails that live in ponds, lakes, and rivers. Not only do they have gills, but they also have a range in sizes much like land snails. There are roughly 4,000 distinct species of freshwater snails in the world. Land snails, on the other hand, have a much larger group and tend to grow quite big as well.

3. The Giant African Land Snail is One of The Largest Snails in the World

giant snail
The largest giant African snail measured over 15 inches!

Olena Kurashova/Shutterstock.com

The biggest snail in the world is a land snail. It is the giant African snail, and it can grow over 7 inches in size, with the largest specimen being measured at just over 15 inches. They have large, light to dark shells with vertical dark stripes on them. These snails are considered an invasive species, feeding off at least 500 diverse types of plants. It is also said that these snails are carriers of a parasite that is known to cause meningitis, posing a threat to both humans and other animals.

4. The Smallest Snail in The World is Less Than 0.03 Inches

tiniest snail on leaf
The smallest snail in the world is even smaller than the one pictured here on a leaf, it cannot be seen with the naked eye.

karegg/Shutterstock.com

The smallest snail in the world is a micro mollusk. A tiny, translucent shelled snail that has been measured to reach just under 0.03 inches total in size. This snail was found in Borneo and has been named Acmella nana, which translates to dwarf in Latin. Because this snail is so incredibly small, scientists say that they cannot be spotted out in the wild by the naked eye and must be observed under a microscope. This species was found on a limestone hill and is said to have high diversity, meaning there could be at least 500 species of this tiny snail in the world.

5. They Are Not Mammals or Reptiles

spotted nerite snail (Neritina natalensis)
The spotted nerite snail (Neritina natalensis) displaying its striking shell. Shells are vital for snail survival.

iStock.com/Juan Carlos Juarez Jaramillo

Snails are called gastropods. Gastropods are a form of mollusk that include snails, slugs, and whelks. It is one of the most diverse groups of organisms, home to over 40,000 distinct species. They also belong to the invertebrate class, a group of organisms that do not have a spine or skeletal system. Therefore, the shell of a snail is so important. It serves as a home, a defense mechanism, and as a form of protection for their fragile bodies.

6. They Have Teeth, Many Teeth!

Mystery snail
Snail teeth are tiny, but they have many of them, used to scrape and cut their food.

Arunee Rodloy/Shutterstock.com

While snails may have tiny mouths, they still have teeth. A lot of them. In fact, it is said that some snails have over 20,000 teeth, while the average snail can have up to or over 1,000. These teeth are practically microscopic and obviously aren’t very sharp when compared to other animals, but they are used for both scraping or cutting food. Their teeth form inside a structure in their mouths called a radula, an elongated sack that grows several rows of tiny snail teeth. How cute is that?

7. Like Turtles, They Retreat into Their Shell When a Threat is Nearby

Snails extend out from their shells to explore their world, but quickly retreat into their shells safety at the sign of a threat.

Anna Seliaeva/Shutterstock.com

Because snails do not have backbones or a skeletal system, they are obviously weak to many other animals in the wild. Because of this, they also used their shell as a defense mechanism. In fact, whenever a threat is posed nearby, they often retreat inside of their shells as a source of protection, much like a turtle would in the wild. Not only is their shell used as a source of protection from predators, but it can also protect them from elevated temperatures.

8. Most Snails Are Hermaphrodites

Snail Caviar
Many snail species are hermaphroditic and can reproduce on their own.

Zebra-Studio/Shutterstock.com

There are many species in the world that can reproduce on their own and do not have genders and snails are one of them. Most are not male or female and can produce both eggs and sperm on their own, however, some snails that belong to different families can be male or female. They can reproduce when they are sexually mature and when their sexual organs acquire necessary conditions. The time varies for all snails, mostly due to their location and environments.

9. Their Shells Grow With Them

Giant African land snail on moss
Snails don’t discard their shells when they outgrow them, as hermit crabs are known to do, their shells grow with them!

Mark Brandon/Shutterstock.com

Every snail has a shell and unlike many other shelled creatures, snails do not discard their shells and form new ones. In fact, as snails grow, their shells grow with them! Their growth begins while they are still inside of the egg and when they are born, they already have their shells. To make their shell strong, snails are constantly in search of calcium-rich food sources to produce a strong and sturdy shell for their fragile bodies to grow into.

10. They Participate In Snail Races

Snail Racing
People often set up snail races for entertainment.

iStock.com/Aleksandr Zyablitskiy

While snails are typically slow creatures, there are still snail races that are held everywhere in the world. Snail races are used as a humorous form of entertainment, obviously because these guys don’t move at a fast pace, and they are incredibly fun to watch. While it is possible for other species of snails to participate in these races, the garden snail is the most common snail used for snail races. The record-holder was a snail named Archie and he won the race in 2 minutes’ time, not so slow after all!

Garden snail isolated on white background
Garden snail isolated on white background
Stepan Bormotov/Shutterstock.com
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About the Author

A substantial part of my life has been spent as a writer and artist, with great respect to observing nature with an analytical and metaphysical eye. Upon close investigation, the natural world exposes truths far beyond the obvious. For me, the source of all that we are is embodied in our planet; and the process of writing and creating art around this topic is an attempt to communicate its wonders.

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