Fast Facts about Snails
Snails! Some people hate them; some love them with lashings of garlic butter and a side of homemade bread. Take them, or leave them, they are here to stay, having been on earth from around 350 million years ago - and they inhabited the oceans long before that.
While these slippery customers may not be on anyone's list of safari-sightings, they are an important part of the food chain and much more interesting than you think. Here are some things you probably didn't know about the humble snail –
Some snails hibernate during the winter, wrapping themselves up in a thin layer of mucus to avoid drying out, and surviving off fat that they have stored during times of plenty.
Some species of snail can live for up to 25 years.
The Giant African land snail can grow up to 30 centimetres long, while the smallest microgastropods can slip right through the eye of a needle, being less than a millimetre tall.
While on the move, snails leave a trail of mucus behind them. This substance allows them to traverse almost any terrain by reducing friction. In marine snails, this mucus has powerful adhesive qualities which are being used in medical studies as a substitute for sutures.
Although snails are hermaphrodites, they cannot produce young on their own, they still have to mate with another snail to produce offspring.
Snails are deaf but can see via their eyes, which are perched on their upper tentacles, and smell with their lower tentacles.
Snails do not like bright sunlight and are thus most 'active' at night and on overcast days. When things start to heat up they retreat into their shells for cover.
Despite their diminutive size, snails are powerful creatures and can lift up to 10 times their own body weight.
Slugs and snails are exactly the same apart from the latter having a shell, and some slugs even have internal shell plates within their bodies.
Only 50 000 members of the mollusc family have been identified so far, but it is believed that there are over 200 000 species out there, including both land and sea varieties.
From deep ocean trenches to desert habitats, snails can be found on every surface of the earth, including the oceans of Antarctica.
Common garden snails shoot 'love darts' at the object of their affection during courtship and it is believed that these are the inspiration behind Cupid's weapon of choice.