Two days ago I was out walking the trails of a favorite park when I saw a couple fascinating creatures moving slowly across the way.
These are Land Snails– and I tend to notice them at about this time of year, so perhaps they are more active now for some reason.
Land snails have a strong muscular foot; they use mucus to enable them to crawl over rough surfaces, and in order to keep their soft bodies from drying out. Like other mollusks, land snails have a mantle, and they have one or two pairs of tentacles on their head. Their internal anatomy includes a radula and a primitive brain. In terms of reproduction, the majority of land snails are hermaphrodite (have a full set of organs of both sexes) and most lay clutches of eggs in the soil. Tiny snails hatch out of the egg with a small shell in place, and the shell grows spirally as the soft parts gradually increase in size. Most land snails have shells that are right-handed in their coiling.
The tentacles are really interesting. One pair of tentacles have eyes on them, and another pair- underneath the eye stalks- are for smelling, essentially noses. A mouth opening lies beneath both.
In the wild, snails eat a variety of different foods. Terrestrial snails are usually herbivorous, however there are some species that are predatory carnivores or omnivores. The diet of most land snails can include leaves, stems, soft bark, fruit, vegetables, fungi and algae. Some species can cause damage to agricultural crops and garden plants, and are therefore often regarded as pests.
These creatures usually have a lung for breathing, though some species actually have gills- these latter are found in moist areas such as moss. They can live for years.
I see the occasional empty snail shell, I imagine they would be tasty tidbits for birds and other animals- get under cover quick! When attacked, they withdraw within their shell and place their foot between their bodies and the shell opening.
Nature is always interesting!