Carnivorous Snail Species

a snail eating

We all know that snails eat plant material in the garden, and many tank enthusiasts will add certain types of snails, such as mystery snails, to get rid of high levels of algae in the water. Have you ever wondered whether there were any carnivorous snail species, though?

Why don’t we find out?

Are There Carnivorous Snails?

Yes, there are carnivorous snails out there in the world, which many people find quite bizarre. Most of us know snails to be leaf-eating, slow, slimy creatures that would be far too slow to capture and eat other animals. However, there are both land, freshwater, and saltwater snails that each meat… and even each other.  

Carnivorous Snails Around the World

Any gastropod from the whelk species are carnivorous. There are more than 1,500 species of the Buccinidae family, so we would literally be here all day if I were to list them all. Dog whelks (Nucella lapillus) from the Muricidae family are meat-eaters, too.

There are even a few extinct carnivores in the gastropod world, including the bean snail (also known as Captain Cook’s bean snail, partula snail, or Partula faba) from Ra’iātea and Tahaa in French Polynesia.

Assassin Snail

The assassin snail, also known as bumblebee snail or Anentome Helena, is the most well-known of all carnivorous snails, and can be found worldwide in the aquarium industry. In the wild, you’ll find it across most of South Asia, such as Sumatra, Malaysia, and Thailand.

This lurking gastropod will bury itself in substrate and wait for the right moment to completely ambush passing prey. Assassins eat so many snails that they can actually threaten native species with extinction when introduced.

Not just eating other snails, this species will even attempt to prey on much larger snails alongside earthworms.

Rosy Wolf Snail

Known scientifically as Euglandina rosea, this meat-eating snail has also earned itself the nickname “cannibal snail”, and it’s exactly for the reason you’d think. The rosy wolf is a land snail that eats other snails… at times, literally to the point of extinction.

According to some reports, as many as eight species are now extinct as a direct result of the introduction of the rosy wolf snail in Hawaii. It is now, quite rightly, on the list of Top 100 Most Invasive Species, according to the IUCN.

Tongaland Cannibal Snail

Natalina wesseliana is a land snail that belongs to the Rhytididae family and is found in its namesake: South Africa, Tongaland (Maputaland) specifically.

As the name suggests, this carnivorous snail eats other snails. It’s quite rare and considered endangered in South Africa.

The Pondoland cannibal snail (Natalina beyrichi) is another meat-eater found in South Africa, and just like many others on this list, the population is suffering as a direct result of deforestation.

Otway Black Snail

From the same family as the Tongaland cannibal (Rhytididae), Victaphanta compacta, also known as the Otway black snail, is another snail that eats meat, including other snails. This part-time nocturnal gastropod is not a cannibal, though; it won’t eat others from its own species.

What it does eat includes:

  • Insect larvae (soft-bodied insects)
  • Slugs
  • Other snail species
  • Earthworms

Very dark in color, almost black, you’ll only find the Otway black if you travel to Victoria in Australia, and the Otway Ranges in particular.

Amber Snail

Another one belonging to the Rhytididae family, the amber snail, of which there are a few subspecies, is a carnivore. These large land snails can be found in New Zealand, in specific areas of the South Islands – Nelson and Marlborough.

All Powelliphanta subspecies are carnivorous, as are all snails from the Rhytididae family. This group also includes the following meat-eaters:

Kauri Snail

There are two species of Kauri snail, both found on New Zealand: Paryphanta watti and Paryphanta busbyi. They will eat their own kind (cannibals) along with all Rhytida family snails, earthworms, insects and their larvae, and more.

Kauri snails are predatory, which means they will actively hunt and chase (as fast as they can, anyway) prey. Sadly, with many predators and habitat loss, these gastropods are on the serious decline. Pigs, rats, other predators, bush fires, and deforestation are their biggest threats.

Final Mentions

There are far more carnivorous snails than you’d think. Here are a few more that I feel deserve a special mention:

  • Keeled snails (Tasmaphena lamproides)
  • Nutmeg snails (Cancellariidae family)
  • Gippsland black snail (Victaphanta atramentaria)
  • Margin shells (Marginellidae family)
  • Sydney carnivorous snail (Vitellidelos dulcis)
  • Volutes (Volutidae family)
  • Turbinellidae family
  • Cone snails (Conidae family)
  • Auger snails (Terebridae family)

Carnivorous Slugs

You’d likely never believe it but there are carnivorous slugs out there on this weird planet, too.

The Paua slug, found on New Zealand’s North Island, has a rather specific diet that includes earthworms, snails from the Charopidae family, and Otoconcha dimidiate semi-slugs.

The great grey or leopard slug (Limax maximus) is native to Europe but has made its way around the world. It isn’t strictly a carnivore; it’s an omnivore, eating both animal and plant material. Alongside fungi, it will consume other slugs, dead plants, and more.


As always, fact is stranger than fiction. No-one would imagine that snails and slugs could be meat-eaters, let alone cannibalistic; but the truth is, they can be both!

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