Slimy Sea Snails


Introduction

Snails’ ancestors are one of the earliest known types of animals in the world. There is fossil evidence of primitive gastropods dating back to the late Cambrian period; this means that they lived nearly 500 million years ago.


There are many types of snails, but they fundamentally differ because they are aquatic or terrestrial. The former are adapted to live in the sea or bodies of fresh water, but the latter live exclusively on land, although in humid areas. All land snails are gastropod mollusks, meaning that they belong to the same group of octopuses, which are part of the phylum Mollusca. At the same time, they are members of the class Gastropoda, which includes all snails and slugs. Being a mollusk means lacking an internal skeleton and bones, but snails are not unprotected.

Gastropods can adapt to a variety of living conditions, and they don’t require large amounts of food. They have been able to continually evolve to survive the conditions around them which many researchers find to be very fascinating.

Physical Appearance

While moving, snails leave behind a trail of slime, a lubricant they produce to allow them to go on any terrain without injuring its body. Land Snails aren’t able to hear at all, but they have eyes and olfactory organs. They use their sense of smell to help them find food being their most important sensory organ.

You will find that snails are most active at night. They may come out during the early morning hours as well.The biological features of snails are fascinating. For example, most are hermaphrodites, which means that a single snail has male and female reproductive organs at the same time. However, they usually mate in the “traditional” way: with a partner. A few weeks after mating and laying eggs, the hatchlings emerge from their egg, small and defenseless against many predators that sneak around, such as beetles, birds, turtles and even other snails. There are exceptions. Some species have sex differentiation, so every individual is either male or female.

The life expectancy of snails in the wild is about 3 to 7 years, but in captivity, they can live up to 10-15 years or even more.

Role in the Environment

Sea snails play numerous roles in their ecosystems. Snails are food for a number of animals (fish, crabs, other snails, birds, humans) and herbaceous (plant-eating) snail species can help remove algae and reduce plant detritus (dead matter). Their discarded shells provide protection and habitat for other animals and are prized by shell collectors worldwide. Sea snails support commercial and recreational fisheries in Florida and are harvested for meat, shells and use in the aquarium industry.


Some Species of Snails

  • Horse Conch

  • The horse conch (Triplofusus giganteus) is the largest univalve (single shell) snail found in U.S. waters and is the state shell of Florida. The horse conch can grow to a length of 24 inches (600 millimeters) and is easily identifiable by the bright orange flesh inside the shell. The shells of juvenile horse conchs are also bright orange, but they fade to dark brown over time. These snails are carnivorous (meat-eaters) and eat mostly bivalves (two shells) and other snails, including other horse conchs. They can be found throughout Florida marine waters, foraging in seagrass beds or buried in sandy sediments.

  • Lightning Whelk

  • The lightning whelk (Busycon sinistrum) is one of the larger univalve snails found in Florida waters. It can grow to a length of 16 inches (400 millimeters) and is easily identifiable by the left-handed opening of the shell – meaning when you look at the shell, the opening is on the left. Lightning whelk shells are usually creamy with dark brown streaks. These snails are carnivorous and eat mostly bivalves; they are often found consuming hard clams that were buried in the sediment. Lightning whelks are most commonly found on mud and sand flats but are occasionally observed in seagrass beds.

  • True Tulip

  • The true tulip (Fasciolaria tulipa) is smaller than the horse conch and lightning whelk but is observed more frequently in Florida marine waters. The shell of a true tulip is smooth and spindle-shaped with several whorls, or spirals, in the shell. Shells can reach a length of 8 inches (200 millimeters), and the color ranges from light cream to dark brown with dark brown blotches and black spiral lines. The true tulip is a voracious predator and will eat bivalves, snails and even decaying animals. When threatened, tulip snails have an escape maneuver they can use when retreating into their shell is not enough. When grasped by a predator, they extend their body out of their shell and violently thrash their foot to startle the predator before making a hasty retreat.

  • Banded Tulip

  • The banded tulip (Fasciolaria lilium) is a close relative of the true tulip and is found in the same habitats in Florida. Its shell length is usually smaller than the true tulip, reaching up to 4 inches (100 millimeter). The shell colors are also highly variable, but the black spiral lines are farther apart and more pronounced, giving the banded tulip its name. The diet of the banded tulip is similar to that of the true tulip and is composed of smaller bivalves and snails.


Sourced From/More Information:

Article 1: https://www.snail-world.com/

Images & Article 2: https://myfwc.com/research/saltwater/mollusc/other-molluscs/sea-snails/

Images: https://oceanconservancy.org/blog/2020/11/09/5-sensational-sea-snail-species/

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