Snails are interesting creatures that can be found all over the world. There are many different species of land snails and freshwater snails. They all go through the same stages during their life cycle. In order to explain each stage, we will divide the snail life cycle to four stages:
- The egg
- The baby snail
- The young snail
- The adult snail
In this blog post, we will take a closer look at each of these stages and learn more about how snails live and grow. We will also discuss some of the things that snails can teach us about life!
Unfortunately, because they are fragile, slow and have low defensive mechanisms, most land snails will not complete their full cycle and die or get eaten.
We all know the familiar question, what came first? The chicken or the egg? The same goes for the snail life cycle. So we will start with the egg.
Snail’s eggs are small and round and they are usually white or translucent. They can be above the ground or below the ground, depending on the type of snail and the habitat. Some snail eggs are even sticky, so that they can attach to surfaces.
Snail’s eggs take about two weeks to hatch, and during this time, the snail egg will develop a thin, protective layer called the operculum. The snail, even inside the egg, already has its shell.
The eggs are usually in groups of 80-100. However, only a small percentage of those will have the opportunity to hatch. They are often eaten by predators, other snails or even humans (known as snail caviar).
Once the snail egg hatches, the baby snail will emerge.
The Baby Snail
The next stage in the snail life cycle is the baby snail. The baby snail looks like a miniature version of the adult snail, and it is already starting to develop its shell. It is initially colorless or translucent, but it will start to develop its own color as it grows older.
The baby snail will spend its first few days feeding on the egg sac that it was born from – as an excellent source of calcium. In addition to eating his own egg’s remains, it might also eat shells of other snail eggs around him or even unhatched eggs. After a few days, the baby snail will start to look for food on its own.
Although growing very fast in the beginning, the baby snail’s growth will start to slow down after a few weeks. At this stage in their life, snails are very vulnerable to predators and many of them will not make it to the next stage in their life cycle.
The Young Snail
The young snail will continue with his search for food – preferably types of food that are high in calcium – and attempting to avoid predators. As the young snail grows, its shell is also growing larger and larger and in addition, becoming stronger.
After surviving its first few weeks and growing to about half the size of an adult snail, the young snail will start to develop its reproductive organs. At this stage, the young snail is becoming and adult snail and also starting to look for a mate.
The Adult Snail
The adult snail life revolves around finding food, finding a mating partner, laying eggs and generally trying to survive.
Once the snail finds a mate, they will start the process of reproduction. The female snail will lay her eggs in a safe place, and then both snails will protect the eggs until they hatch.
And the cycle starts all over again!
How Long Do Snails Live?
Most snail species live between 2 and 7 years in nature. However, in a safe environment, snail’s lifespan can go much longer to somewhere between 10-15 years. In some rare cases, they were observed to live even up to 25 years.
You can tell the age of a snail by looking at its shell. As a snail grows older, it adds whorls (rings) to its shell in order to accommodate its growing body.
Do Snails Sleep?
Yes, snails sleep but their sleep is very different from ours. They do not follow the 24 hours, day and night schedule. They are awake and active for 33-41 hours and then begin their sleeping cycle. The sleeping cycle lasts 12-14 hours. During that time the snails will sleep for 21-23 minutes, wake up and go to sleep again. It will do the sleeping-waking up around 7 times during the sleeping cycle.
After it is well rested, it will be full of energy and continue with its normal activities.
Although this is not part of the actual land snail life cycle, many species of land snails go under the process of hibernation. As common for hibernation for other animals (very known for bears), this happens mostly in the winter when the temperatures are going down, below what the snail finds as comfortable.
During the snail hibernation process, the snail will shut its front door and seal it with a layer of mucus that is called epiphragm. This will help the snail keep the moisture that is crucial to its health. In addition, the snail’s heart rate and metabolism will become slower to reduce its need to go out for food.
When the temperature rises again, the snail will bust its mucus door open and look for food and other activities.
In order to protect themselves during the summer high temperature, the snails have similar process to hibernation that is called estivation.
Hibernation vs. Sleeping
There are 2 quick ways to tell if your snail is sleeping or hibernating.
Duration – Snail sleep for 21-23 minutes. So if it is longer than that, your snail is probably hibernating.
Epiphragm – If your snail sealed its shell’s opening with a layer of mucus, it means he is getting ready to hibernate. In general, a sleeping snail looks very much like an awake one except that it is much more relaxed and less responsive.
Now that we have looked at each stage of the snail life cycle, let’s take a moment to reflect on what snails can teach us about life.
First of all, snails are very patient creatures. They move slowly and methodically, and they are never in a hurry. This can teach us the importance of taking our time and enjoying the journey instead of rushing to the finish line.
Secondly, snails are very resilient creatures. They can withstand a lot of abuse and still keep going. This can teach us the importance of persevere even when things are tough.
Finally, snails are creatures that always stick together. They live in groups and they take care of each other. This can teach us the importance of community and support.
Marla is our newest content contributor. She is a mother of 2 lovely girls and recently added Gizzle, a garden snail into her family. She started in Escargot World as a graphic designer but our cute snails just won her over. She writes about snail pets and snail facts.