Types of snails

A snail with a gold shell

There are over 40,000 species of snails all over the world. The most known type is the land snail (also called terrestrial snail). There are two other types: the freshwater snail and the sea snail. All those types of snails together with the different slugs belong to the Gastropoda class. 

Snails are very adaptable animals. They live in many places around the world. Many people encounter snails in their gardens or backyards. But there are different types of snails that can live in the desert, while others live in the snow. 

In addition to their different habitats, different species of snails have different eating habits. Most land snails are herbivores and will eat only plant-based food. But there are other types that will eat animal-based food (carnivores) omnivorous (will eat both plants and animals).

Snail are also a good source of food for humans. Nowadays, people associate the word Escargot with a snail dish but the word is just a translation of the word “snail” in French. There are many edible snails which are being farmed in snail farms across the world. This process is called Heliciculture

On the other hand, there are many species of snails that are dangerous to eat because they contain parasites and some species are even poisonous snails.

Over the past few years, there is increasing interest in snails as pets. Although it might surprise some people, snails actually have some virtues that make them a great pet for adult and kids.

How To Identify a Snail?

Different types of snail shells

Children who play outdoors become familiar with snails in a very young age. They are very easy to recognized and differentiate from slug by their shell. Because they move so slow, they are often being watched up closely and also picked up. 

There is a protocol to identify each species of snail. But generally speaking, most of the identification is done by the size and structure of its shell.


When trying to identify a snail, one of the first things to keep in mind is the shell. The shell is the most obvious part of its anatomy and for most snails will have a conical shape and the entrance will be either on the left side or right. The existence or the absence of a shell is what separates within the Gastropoda class between snails and the slugs.

  • Shell Present: This is self-explanatory and the shell can be seen with the naked eye from the outside of the snail. It is characterized by the coiling and the animal can often retract into the shell.
  • Shell Absent: Just because you don’t see a shell, does not mean one is not present. The shell might be reduced of internal, which means that no coiling is present. Often, the shell is located at the back close to the mantle and the snail cannot retract.

There are also a variety of shell types that you can come across. While the conical structure is the most common, it can often be different. Here are a few common snail shell types you can find:

  • Broad conical shape
  • Narrow conical shape
  • Dome-shaped
  • Pupilliform
  • Succiniform
  • Heliciform (conical-depressed)

Shell Sculpturing

The sculpturing of the shell is another way that you can use to identify the different snails. In most cases, you can see the characteristics with the naked eye. However, in some cases, it might need some magnification. Here are some key things to note about shell sculpturing:

  • Hairs: You might come across snails that have hairs on their shell
  • Pits: These are uniform indentations in the shell
  • Dents: These are irregular indentations in the shell
  • Striae: Indentations found in the whorls of the shell
  • Pleats: Creasing that have formed by crumpling and folding
  • Ribs: Ridges that run traversely to the whorls on the shell

Slime Trail

Whenever you come across a snail, you are bound to find a slime trail as well. There are two different forms of excretion common to snails. The first type is not adhesive, but rather translucent and the other is slightly thinker and more condensed. While this does not relate to any specific snail, the type of secretion left behind by the snail depends on the way it is stimulated.

Interesting Land Snails Types

As was previously mentioned, there are thousands and thousands of different snails. There are plenty of types you might come across. But there are others you would probably never meet.

Fire Snail

The Fire Snail, also known as Platymma tweediei, and is Peninsular Malaysia’s largest land snail. This snail can only be found in the mountainous forests of the area. It is the only species in the Platymma genus.

It is the only one of its kind that adds to its notoriety among snails. The black shell of this unusual snail is distinguished by its orange to brilliant red’ foot.

Fire Snail

Giant African Land Snail

The Giant African Land Snail is one of the largest snail species and they grow up to 8-inches. They are native to Africa, but the snail can be found all over the world. They are officially considered as pest. The United States Department Of Agriculture has described them as being one of the most invasive species. These species tend to destroy crops and vegetation very easily.

Milk Snail

The Milk Snail is commonly referred to as the Spanish snail as well. These snails are characterized by their white or brown shells with darker specks on the shell. They typically feed on things like papaya and other fruits. These snails are also some of the most common when it comes to edible snails.

Florida Tree Snail

The Florida Tree snail is relatively large snail with a unique second name – Orthalicus Reses. Despite its size, it is considered endangered species. As its name suggests, it is native to Florida. This type alone as more than 50 different colors.

Garden Snail

Garden Snails are probably the most common snails you will come across. They are native to Egypt, Western Europe and the Mediterranean Region. However, snails have been distributed all over the world in the modern era. In terms of size, they will grow up to 1.3-inches and the shell can be described as yellowish with brown strips.

These snails feed on a variety of different plants and fruits. Many people will consider it to be a pest. On the other hand, others will have it as pet.

Garden snail

Decollate Snail

Decollate Snail is an innocent looking snail but do not let its look deceive you. This is the snail you bring to your back yard if you want to get rid of snail pests in your garden. It will simply eat those garden snails up.

Mediterranean Green Snail

The Mediterranean Green Snail is another common type of snail. Many people refer to it as the green garden snail. The snail is home to the Mediterranean and in Mediterranean parts of Europe. It is also prevalent in some parts of Africa. Much like the garden snail, it feeds on a wide variety of plants and fruits, while also destroying vegetation.

It is easy to identify them due to the green color of their shell. They reach up to 5-inches in total size when they reach adulthood.

Roman Snail

Two roman snails greeting each other

The Roman Snail is one of the most popular edible snails. It has a dark brown shell with light brown bands around it. The snail was once native to Europe, but they can now be found all over the world. These snails prefer temperate rainforests with a little bit of rainfall each year. The snail is characterized by a bulky shell that is 1.7-inches in length and width. The shell constitutes two-thirds of the weight of the Roman Snail. Another name for this snail is: burgundy snail.

White Garden Snail

white snails sitting on a plant

Theba pisana, also known as the white garden snail, sandhill snail, white Italian snail, Mediterranean coastal snail, or simply the Mediterranean snail, is an edible species of medium-sized, air-breathing land snail that belongs to the Helicidae (typical snail) family.

This species is endemic to the Mediterranean region, but it has spread to many other nations as an invasive species. In many areas of the world, Theba pisana is a well-known agricultural pest. The shell is white to yellow-brown in hue, with light brown spiral markings.

Interesting Sea Snails Types

Volcano snail

The Volcano snails are by far, one of the most interesting creatures on the plant. Lives in 2 miles depths of the Indian Ocean and made of Iron!

They are known in some other names like Chrysomallon squamiferum, scaly foot snail/gastropod, sea pangolin, magma snail.

Due to their unique habitat, where almost no living creature can survive, they feed on mostly bacteria.

Cone Snails

The cone shell snail is a broad term referring to several marine snails of the subclass Prosobranchia (class Gastropoda), which belong to the genus Conus and the family Conidae (there are about 500 species of this snail in the world). The shell has straight sides with a low spire, tapering body whorl, and a small aperture. Cone snails have a paralyzing toxin that they inject into the bodies of prey through a dart. Some large species have been known to sting humans with this fatal toxin. They typically prey on worms and mollusks, but some come snails that can capture fish.

Cats Eye Snail

Cats eye snail (Lunella smaragda) is an indigenous species found in New Zealand’s intertidal and low subtidal rocky coastlines and soft substrates (such as seaweeds). It can be found on rocks between low and mid-tide on the North, South, and Stewart Islands.

The common name “cat’s eye” for the synonym Turbo smaragdus refers to the species’ beautifully colored operculum, which resembles an eye and occasionally is a decorative feature. The inside of the operculum is flat, with four whorls. The nucleus spans more than one-third of the face’s width. Except for the side of the increment, which is white, the outside is a vivid green.

It has a thick blackish cuticle that hides the green underneath. It usually has 4 to 5 whorls and is degraded at the apex. Spirally sulcata or carinate are the higher ones. The body whorl is big, flattened above, with sub obsolete spiral sulci and progressive wrinkles. The big opening is obliquely shaped, rounded inside, and pearly white. The outer lip is narrow with a black rim. A pearly callus covers the arched columella. The concave white umbilico-parietal region has been excavated.

Moon Snail

The Moon Snail is one of the most well-known invertebrates in the sandy intertidal zone. It is a fairly large species (up to 13 cm in diameter). The eggs of this snail contribute to it’s size. This light brown species is nearly spherical, with the first whorl occupying most of the shell. The aperture is enormous, and the shell is closed by a big, horny operculum on the foot.

Periwinkle Snail

Periwinkle is a zoological term for any small marine snail belonging to the Littorinidae family (class Gastropoda, phylum Mollusca). Periwinkles are herbivorous shore (littoral) snails found on rocks, stones, or pilings between high and low tide; a few can be found on mudflats, and specific tropical variants can be found on certain prop roots of mangrove trees. The western Atlantic is home to ten of the world’s approximately 80 species. Littorina littorea, the common periwinkle, is the northern species’ most significant, most common, and ubiquitous. It can grow up to 4 centimeters (1 1/2 inch) in length, is usually dark gray, and has a solid spiral (turbinate) shell that can endure wave buffeting.

Surfing Snails

The plough’s smooth shell Bullia rhodostoma is a common whelk (sea snail) that scavenges off washed-up jellyfish and bluebottles along our shore. This species can extend its broad, thin, agile feet and surf up and down the shore, taking advantage of wave movement and currents. The smooth shell is lighter than subtidal species and has a lower center of gravity, making it easier to surf. Surfing is frequently done with the animal on its back or side. The shell is one of the most efficient surfing species, capable of reaching speeds of three quarters the flow rate of the water.

What is the biggest snail in the world?

The largest land snail ever recorded according to Guinness World Records is an African Land Snail. As mentioned before, those are the largest land gastropod. However, this one was extremely large (or long if you prefer). According to the record, this Achatina achatina was 15.5 inches (39.3 cm) from snout to tail. Its weight was 2 lb (900 g). Originated from Sierra Leon but lived in the UK by the name Gee Geronimo. Although it was recorded in 1978, this record wasn’t broken yet.

The largest water snail title belongs to the Syrinx aruanus. Those sea snails can reach as size of 35.8 inches (91 cm) and weight of 40 lb (18 kg). They live in the Australia and therefore, got the name Australian trumpet. However, they can also be found in nearby areas like eastern Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. With that size and weight, they are clearly the biggest gastropod in the world. Their unique shell size and structure made it famous among shell collectors.

What is the smallest snail in the world?

Angustopila dominikae is the smallest snail in the world. Its size is less than 0.03 inches (0.86mm). They are round with gray color shell. The Angustopila dominikae was discovered in southern parts of China. They were found in limestone caves and cliffs. Surprisingly enough, researchers weren’t able to find too many locations where this snail lives. As a result, they are considered as Critically Endangered. Another “famous” small snail is the dot snail, with size that is less than 0.3 inches.

What is the fastest snail in the world?

We all know snails are slow. When something is that slow, the most logical thing to do is a race to determine who is the fastest. Every year in July, the city of Congham in Norfolk, UK, is conducting a snail race. The race is 13 inches (33 cm) circular course. 150 snails are competing for the fastest snail title.

A snail race for the fastest snail

The current title for the champion of champions belongs to Archie. In 1995, Archie completed the course in whooping time of exactly 2 minutes. In second place for all time fast, is Sammy. Sammy snail completed made it to the finish line in 2 minutes and 38 seconds.

This race is been held every year since 1970 with the exception of 2019 and 2020 when it was canceled due to COVID-19.


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