The dot snail is the smallest snail that lives on land. It has a shell that continually grows, but the gastropod itself never gets any bigger. It also looks like the love child of some of its larger land cousins.
What is a Dot Snail?
As you’ve probably already guessed from the name, dot snails are very small snails, around the size of a dot which contribute to their cute appearance. They’re sometimes called pinhead snails, which again is apt given their small stature.
Scientifically, they’re known as Punctidae. This is a family of different types (genera) of pinhead or dot snails, with different types coming from different places around the world.
What Do Dot Snails Look Like?
Being rather small, dot snails can be hard to see, especially when you’re not specifically keeping your eyes peeled for them. They do have some quite interesting characteristics, however.
Firstly, the shell looks as though it has been squashed. It is circular and whirled (whorls), but it looks as if something heavy has pressed down on it, flattening it somewhat.
Color-wise, there is quite a range. It is usually varying shades of brown, similar to a garden snail. It can have darker patches or lines, though.
How Big is a Dot Snail?
Being the smallest land snail on our wonderful planet, the dot snail is very small. Most specimens have shells that barely reach 1mm in diameter – 0.03 of an inch.
The name is very apt; these snails literally are as small as dots.
If you’re measuring from the tail end to the tip of its tentacles, the dot snail can reach a maximum length of 0.16 cm (0.06 of an inch).
Where Do Dot Snails Live?
You can find the dot snail in many different places around the world, with different subspecies found in different areas. As well as residing in the UK and a large part of Europe, these teeny-tiny gastropods can also be found in North and West Asia.
Quite a few species of dot or pinhead snail live in the Tasman Sea, too. Not actually in the sea, of course; these are land snails, after all. The following dots are all only found on Lord Howe Island (Australia):
- Mount lidgbird pinhead
- Smooth pinhead
- Coarse-ribbed pinhead
- Lowland forest pinhead
- Dwarf pinhead
- Lord Howe pinhead
- Pagoda pinhead
- Sweet pinhead
- Mount Gower pinhead
- Blackburn Island pinhead
- Angular pinhead
- Brown turban pinhead
- Beautiful pinhead
- Paraloama (genus)
Punctum pinhead snails can be found in Mexico, South Africa, and some parts of the Northern Hemisphere.
Ideal Dot Snail Habitat
It is rare to find dot snails in open ground, or wide and open spaces, although it isn’t entirely unheard of. You are more likely to find these tiny gastropods in heavily treed areas, such as woods and forests. It isn’t for the trees, as you might expect. Instead, they like to hide and slowly move around in the fallen leaves and other debris covering the forest floor.
You are unlikely to find snails in areas close to human populations, because they’re shy and like to be left well alone. They are quite adaptable, though. They can live quite happily in both dry and hot habitats, and really humid or moist habitats.
How Long Do Pinhead or Dot Snails Live?
Just as with many other snail species, dot snails tend to live for around two years. Some experts believe that they can live for up to four or five years in perfect conditions.
Unfortunately, that means being left alone, in the wild, and not held in captivity. This snail should come with a do-not-disturb sign!
Are Dot Snails Hermaphrodites?
Yes, dot snails are hermaphrodites. Not only that but they can also fertilize themselves, so they don’t need a partner to get things done, so to speak. One dot snail has the ability to be both male and female, so they can produce an egg, then produce sperm, then get the egg fertilized by the sperm, and then keep hold of the eggs until they are ready to be laid.
It’s a very clever process, don’t you think?
But wait, it gets cleverer…
If two dot snails come together, they can also fertilize each other. Essentially, both snails can come away from the encounter pregnant with fertilized eggs.