Thinking about the mating process of snails probably isn’t how you like to spend your time. Still, snails have some of the most interesting sex lives of any creepy crawly in the animal kingdom! Even if it’s a little gross, these slimy little creatures have some unique adaptations that have allowed them to become some of the most numerous and successful animals on the planet. Let’s take a look and learn: Snail Mating Habits: How Do Snails Reproduce?
How do snails mate?
Snail mating is quite a complex event. Let’s take a look at the process.
First, it’s important to know that different snail species have different methods and even physiology when it comes to mating. For our purposes, however, we are going to be looking at the mating habits of the common garden snail. While this is only one species, they are a great example that gives a general idea of how snails reproduce, especially since most other species of snail do something relatively similar.
When snails meet, they first get to know each other by crawling all over and giving one another a good sniff (not too different from humans so far). Then, they take things to the next level. One of the snails will stab the other with a “love dart,” and no, that isn’t a euphemism; it’s actually called a love dart. It’s essentially a sharp dart that stabs into the other snail’s body, injecting hormones to help that snail become more successful in the ensuing attempt to mate.
Then, after the love dart has been “administered,” the male-oriented snail (they aren’t really males and females, but we will get to that later) will then insert his two penises into the two vaginal tracts that the receiving snail has. The female-oriented snail then takes the now-fertilized eggs and digs a hole in the dirt. Laying the eggs, the snail will go on its way, ready to mate again. If conditions are right, a snail can mate once a month and lay eggs equally as often. Each time, however, the snail could be the female or male-oriented partner in the mating cycle.
Are snails male and female?
Snails don’t abide by conventional standards of male and female. Snails are hermaphrodites, having both male and female sexual organs with the ability to both fertilize and lay eggs. When two snails meet, they will vie for position on who is going to be the male or female. Generally, the deciding factor is which snail gets the better placement of the love dart. In garden snails, the love dart placement is key. The better the placement, the better and stronger the hormonal injection. The snail with the better love dart placement essentially cuts off the other snail’s ability to reject sperm, allowing them to be a better receiver.
With garden snails, both snails will try and inject the other with a love dart. For reference, a knife of similar reference size for a human would be a 15-inch knife. Kinky.
What animals are hermaphrodites?
Hermaphrodites are relatively common in the animal kingdom. The potential advantages are clear, with any two animals being guaranteed the ability to mate whenever it encounters another of its species. The most common types of animals to be hermaphrodites are invertebrates, mainly worms, snails, slugs, and barnacles.
Additionally, some types of fish are known hermaphrodites, namely the clownfish, snook, sea bass, grouper, and parrotfish! Most fish, however, are sequential hermaphrodites, meaning they can only be one sex at a time. The other kind, synchronous hermaphrodites, are less common, meaning they have both sexual organs at the same time. Sea bass are examples of synchronous hermaphrodites.
Where do snails lay eggs?
Snails can lay eggs in a few places, mostly depending on their species and environment.
Garden snails will usually dig about an inch into soft dirt before depositing their eggs. Sometimes, they will even lay them on top of the soil, just under a leaf or some other organic debris. Generally, garden snails aren’t too picky about where they lay their eggs.
Aquarium-dwelling snails will usually lay their eggs on a leaf or other aquatic vegetation. Fish will often attempt to eat the snail eggs, but the ones that survive can attach themselves to pretty much anything. They are the hitchhikers of the snail-egg world!
How long until snail eggs hatch?
After mating, a garden snail will lay eggs within 3-6 days, giving time for them to be fertilized. They will then dig their little hole and lay the clear or white eggs inside. Once laid, snail eggs take between 2-4 weeks to hatch the baby snails within.
After snails hatch, they generally eat their eggshells in order to get extra calcium for their shells. Additionally, they will often eat any unhatched siblings for their own calcium content. They don’t make a very loving family!
How long until baby snails mature?
When snails are born, they are incredibly tiny and vulnerable to attack. Their shells are soft, and they need calcium to harden and grow their shells to a meaningful size. Thankfully, it doesn’t take long. After their shell is hardened, a snail will sexually mature within 1-2 years, at which point they will begin the process all over again, from love dart to hatching.
What is the average lifespan of a snail?
Incredibly, snails have some remarkable lifespan for creatures as small as they are. In the wild, where conditions are much less favorable to a long life, a snail is generally expected to live 1-10 years if they can make it to maturity. Predators, accidental crushing, and lack of food or resources can all end a snail’s life prematurely.
In captivity, however, garden snails have been known to live up to 25 years long! For anyone wanting a pet snail, you don’t have to worry about them passing on early, in fact, they will outlive most other pets like cats and dogs!
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH/Shutterstock.com
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