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These slithering snippets are all about snails that live on land - land snails with the occasional mention of their relations.
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Sixty-Six Slithering Facts
About Land Snails

There are three different kinds of snails. Some live in freshwater such as lakes and ponds and are called freshwater snails whereas others live in the sea.

These slithering snippets are all about snails that live on land – land snails, with the occasional mention of their relations!

You will learn what land snail bodies are made up of, how land snails move about and what they eat, and what makes them happy or sad. You will also pick up some ideas for experiments to carry out at school or at home with the help of an adult.

Sixty-Six Slithering Snippets

  1. Snails are shellfish. They belong to a group called MOLLUSCS.  Oysters and clams belong to the same family.
  2. Shell of an African Land SnailThe snail has a shell to protect itself from danger. It grows with the snail and the shell a land snail is born with will stay in the middle of its shell for all of its life.
  3. If a snail is disturbed it will disappear inside its shell and stay there until it feels safe to come out again.
  4. When a tree has been chopped down, there are rings inside it that tell us how old it is.  When a snail grows it grows a new spiral every year, just like a ring.  This is called a WHORL (sounds like ‘wall’).
  5. A snail has a soft body that is long and slimy. The shell that protects it sits upon its back.
  6. Land snails have many different kinds of coloured shells. An Apple Snail for example has a yellow shell and an African Land Snail has different bands of brown, pink and cream.  Some snails have very pretty shells.
  7. The bottom of the snail’s body is called a FOOT. This is what makes it move.
  8. Inside the FOOT are lots of muscles, just like we have muscles in our bodies.  When the muscles work, the FOOT moves and the snail is able to move around.
  9. The foot of an African Land SnailIn the FOOT there is something called a GLAND that makes SLIME, a sticky substance that helps the snail to move along.
  10. Land snails can walk up stalks, sticks and walls and can even go up sharp corners without getting hurt all because it is protected by SLIME.
  11. When SLIME comes out of a land snail’s body, it starts to go hard.  This helps to protect the snail’s body as it moves along.
  12. Land snails in a tank with a lid on will climb upside down and hang from the lid.  They can do this because the SLIME is sticky and creates SUCTION.
  13. A land snail has two pairs of TENTACLES on its head.  The longest pair carries the eyes, one eye on each.  These are called EYE STALKS.
  14. Land snails do not have good eyesight.
  15. The second pair of tentacles on the head is much smaller.  These TENTACLES are for smelling and feeling.
  16. A land snail can put out one TENTACLE, two, three or all of them at any one time.
  17. Snails have a brain, just like we do, which is split into four parts.
  18. Snails do not have any hearing which is why their second pair of TENTACLES carry out such an important job.
  19. We have teeth that cut up food as we eat, but a land snail has a rough tongue which has little hooks on it.  These hooks scrape off tiny bits of leaves, fruit and other foods which the snail can then eat.  These teeth are called RADULA.
  20. Snails love to eat all kinds of plants, fruit, vegetables and CUTTLEFISH.
  21. CUTTLEFISH is very important to snails.  Snail shells are made up of something called CALCIUM which helps their shells to grow and to become strong, just like children need CALCIUM to make strong bones and teeth.  If a snail does not eat CUTTLEFISH or any other shells like broken up egg shells, then its shell will crack.  You can collect cuttlefish at the seaside where they can be found washed up on the beach.
  22. Snails are both male and female and are called HERMAPHRODITES so they produce both eggs and sperm, but they need another snail to be able to make baby snails.
  23. When land snails are ready to lay eggs they make a nest of up to 4 centimetres deep in the soil.  They do this by digging a hole in the soil with the tail end of their foot (pond snails on the other hand do not lay their eggs, but carry them around until they hatch).
  24. When the eggs have been laid they will HATCH after 2-4 weeks.
  25. The eggs are creamy-white and about the size of a small pea.  They are very delicate and must not be touched.   If eggs need to be moved then use a small spoon to pick the eggs carefully out.
  26. The baby snails are born with tiny SHELLS on their backs and bodies that look almost see-through.
  27. Any eggs that have not hatched will be eaten by the other babies.  This will give them an early feed of CALCIUM to help their own shells grow strong.
  28. Spring and summer are the best months for laying eggs when it is generally warm and damp.
  29. It takes two years for a baby snail to turn into an adult, then it can start having babies of its own.
  30. A fully-grown adult snail, or one that will not get any bigger, is easy to spot.  Look at the open end of the shell and you will see a small lip sticking up.  It means that the snail has stopped growing.
  31. Snails will THRIVE in an environment that is warm and MOIST.  African Land Snails originally come from West Africa where the climate is very wet and very humid.
  32. Snails do not like places that are too bright so they should never be left out in sunlight for too long.
  33. If a snail feels dry it will go inside its SHELL and SEAL up its entrance for protection, rather like when we go into our house on a hot, hot day and close the front door to keep out the heat.
  34. When snails are kept in tanks the inside of the tank should be sprayed with water to keep the tank MOIST.
  35. Snails are very active at night. They are NOCTURNAL.
  36. Snails are also very active on cloudy days.
  37. During the winter snails will HIBERNATE.  You can find garden snails hiding in the garden asleep under planks of wood, up against tree trunks and on fences
  38. Snails will live between five and ten years, sometimes fifteen if they are looked after well.
  39. Snails should never be allowed near salt or sugar - they will die if they come into contact with them.
  40. Snails have many enemies.  Beetles, chickens, ducks, geese, birds, toads, turtles and snakes will all eat snails, so if you have them as pets, keep your snails safe.
  41. Farmers do not like snails and many gardeners find interesting ways of trapping them to stop them from eating their vegetables.
  42. One of the most damaging land snails in the world is called the Giant African Land Snail. It can attack up to 500 different kinds of plants.
  43. Garden snails have caused big problems in America.  In the 1850s people brought snails into California for eating, but many snails escaped and had babies and became PESTS because there were so many of them.
  44. Garden snails can be trapped by setting out jam jar lids with beer poured into them, or by using melon skins turned upside down in the vegetable patch.
  45. Some people buy 6-inch screens of copper to dig into the ground.  This makes a good barrier to garden snails.  Copper and snail SLIME do not mix and so the snails cannot climb up the barrier and get to the vegetables.
  46. Some types of snails have already disappeared because of pollution to the environment or changes in HABITAT.
  47. Garden snails are a DELICACY in some countries.  In France people like to eat them cooked with garlic and oil.   African Land Snails are also popular in West Africa.  Other countries where people like to eat snails include Portugal, Greece, Italy and Malta.
  48. The Ghana Tiger Snail is the largest land snail and can grow up to 30 centimetres – that’s about twelve inches.
  49. The largest Giant African Land Snail ever recorded was fifteen inches long from head to tail.
  50. The biggest of all the snails belongs in the sea - it’s an Australian marine type called a SYRINX ARUANUS.  It can grow up to 30 inches long and weighs 40 lbs!

    EXPERIMENTS!
  51. Put a snail into a see-through tank and squirt some water onto it.  What happens when it starts to climb up the tank?  You will see how the muscles move in its FOOT.  The body moves first and then the shell moves forward on its back.
  52. Take a strong piece of plastic and make sure that it is damp.  Put a snail onto the plastic and slowly tip it upside down.  Does the snail stay on?  Why is he staying on?
  53. Put a piece of lettuce onto a plastic surface then place a snail by its side.  Hold up the plastic surface and watch the snail eating.  Can you see where its mouth is?
  54. Repeat the lettuce experiment but keep the plastic surface on the table.  Listen to the noise the snail makes when it is eating.  You should hear the scratching noise the RADULA make on the food.
  55. Get hold of a magnifying glass and hold it up to the snail’s eyes.  Caution:  try not to get too close or the tentacles will disappear back inside the shell!
  56. Pick up a snail and place it on your arm.  See how long it takes for the snail to come out and crawl around.  Which direction does it go in?
  57. Now put the snail back and spray some water with a plastic water container onto your arm.  Put the snail back on your arm.  Does it go any faster?
  58. Get a piece of cucumber. Carefully slice it in half, or ask a grown-up to help you.  Put the cucumber inside the tank.  See how long it takes a snail to smell it and start to move towards it.
  59. Look out for snail trails in the garden or on your lounge carpet if you live in the country!  Are they straight?   Why aren’t they?
  60. Make your own snail trail.  Get a piece of cardboard, some glue and some silver glitter.  With the glue, draw a wobbly line around the card.  Cover with the silver glitter and leave to dry.   Shake off the excess glue.
  61. Look in the garden when it has been raining.  Watch out for the birds poking their beaks into the vegetable patch.  If you are lucky enough to see a bird with a snail, you will see how the birds make use of their long beaks to get at the snail’s soft body – although it is not always such a quick job!
  62. Draw a snail from underneath by putting it onto a piece of plastic or transparent glass and asking a friend or a parent to hold it up for you.
  63. Whilst the snail is on the glass, see if you can locate its breathing hole which should be near the front of the FOOT.  You may need a magnifying glass.
  64. Find three different surfaces such as a ruler, a piece of glass and use an arm for the third.  Put a snail on each one, one at a time.  Does the snail move quicker on any surface?  Why might that be, if it does?
  65. Arrange a Snail Race with friends.  Take a piece of cardboard, any size, and draw lines with a ruler.  Try to select snails with different colouring or you may have to mark them in some way, such as by drawing a letter on their shells with a small amount of white paint.  See how long it takes for one snail to make it over the Finish Line! Caution:  If you wish to collect garden snails then do so the day before if the race is to be held inside.  This way, the snails will have time to get used to the different temperatures
  66. With a magnifying glass, hold it as close as you can to a snail’s eye when a tentacle is out and draw what you see.  You may need an adult to help you to hold the glass.

References

Wikipedia.org
University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources – Integrated Pest Management Program
http://www.accessexcellence.org
http://www.geocites.com/sseagraves/snailfacts.pdf
http://www.kiddyhouse.com/Snails

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