|Recognized by its slug like body and the spiral
patterned shell it carries on its back, the edible garden snail is considered
a delicacy by many people. Not confined solely to gardens, snails are found
in a variety of habitats, from coastal cliffs and dunes to hedges, woods,
and parks. Like most land snails, they prefer damp places with plenty of
Habits: Snails spend the day withdrawn inside their shells, hidden among crevices or under decaying plant matter. At night, they come out of their hiding places to feed. Snails in temperate climates hibernate in the winter. During long, hot, dry spells in the summer, they are in a state of aestivation – that is, an inactive state. In both instances, the snail withdraws into the security of its moist inner shell. It then further protects itself by secreting one or more layers of mucus, which hardens over the hole in the shell to form a protective seal. Snails produce a frothy substance as a form of defense.
Habitat: Most snails eat the leaves of plants such as primrose, nasturtium, and, particularly lettuce. Still, snails usually do less damage to gardens than slugs. After foraging for food, their strong homing instinct will lead them back to their roost. In captivity, snails have shown distinct preferences for dandelion leaves and nettles, but they will eat a wide range of leafy plants, as well as lichens and algae. Some species of snail are carnivorous and eat small insects and other snails. The garden snail and the white lipped snail move by gliding on their flat, muscular foot.
Breeding: All snails are hermaphrodites – that is, they have both male and female sexual organs. Still, although all snails can both produce sperm and lay eggs, they must still mate before reproduction can take place. Mating takes place on warm, damp summer nights. The two individuals rear up and press their undersides together before releasing sperm into one another. After mating is completed, the snails lay their eggs in the ground. Snails may lay several batches of eggs, each of which is fertilized with the sperm from a single mating. Sperm can be stored in their bodies for future use.
The tiny, newly hatched snails have fragile, transparent shells. As the snail grows, its shell gets bigger and becomes more spiral in shape. Tiny pearl like eggs are laid and buried in the ground.
Naturewatch: During the day, garden snails can be found withdrawn into their shells in damp, dark crevices in yards. They are commonly found in flower pots and wooden flower boxes. When snails are hibernating, they tend to gather together in large numbers in favored spots, such as under stones and leaves or among the stems of ivy. In the summer, snails are more visible because they come out of their hiding places at night. Brown lipped snails can be seen attached to the tops of plants and dead stems, where they remain until the first rain arrives.
Related Species: There are about 80,000
species of snail in the world. They are found on land, in fresh water,
and in the sea.
Three Garden Snails: The term garden snail can be confusing, for in the past, it has also been used to refer to two other types of snails – the white lipped and brown lipped banded snails. Cepaea hortensis and Cepaea nemoralis. The garden snail has a brown shell flecked with black. A brown lipped snail’s shell is usually some shade of brown, pink, or yellow. It either is plain or has from one to five dark brown bands. A white lipped snail has a smaller shell, usually a yellowish color with a white lip. The shell may have five dark bands.
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