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 human. 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.
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?
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
- Heliciform (conical-depressed)
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
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.
7 Common Types of Snails
As was previously mentioned, there are thousands and thousands of different snails. There are plenty of types you might come across. Some of the more common ones are:
1. Garden Snail
Scientific Name: Cornu aspersum, Helix aspersa
Speed: 0.029 MPH (Maximum, Adult)
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.
2. Giant African Land Snail
Scientific Name: Achatina Fulica
Speed: 0.002 MPH
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 officialy 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.
3. Mediterranean Green Snail
Scientific Name: Cantareus Apertus, Helix aperta
Speed: 0.0022 MPH
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.
4. Roman Snail
Scientific Name: Helix Pomatia
Speed: 0.0026 MPH
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.
5. White Garden Snail
Scientific Name: Theba Pisana
Speed: 0.029 MPH
The White Garden Snail is often referred to as the Mediterranean or Italian snail. The snail has a white shell that gives it a very unique look. It is one of the top edible snails in the world and also readily available. They have a beautiful size and the shell of the snail is around 15mm to 20mm in total size. The snail is native to the Mediterranean but also makes wonderful pets.
6. Milk Snail
Scientific Name: Otala Lactea
Speed: 0.002 MPH
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.
7. Mystery Snails
Scientific Name: Pomacea Bridgesii
Speed: Water Snail
Mystery snails are a collective group of snails that are commonly found in aquariums. Therefore, earning the name aquarium snails. These snails have a variety of shapes and forms and they are safe to keep in home-aquariums. The snails only feed on dead and decaying plants. The Gold Inca Snail is one of the most common forms of this snail that you will find.
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.
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.
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.