Snails are gastropod animals which have an enclosing shell, into which it is able to retract entirely, for protection. Snails are a different category of animals that fall under the phylum Mollusca. In household situations, snails tend to destroy fruits and vegetables. Snails are active during the wet season and inactive during the winter season. Snails are omnipresent in the world and are found in mountains, desserts, forests and oceans. Due to its tiny size, snails often fall prey to animals like lizards, snakes, rats and birds. Animals who appear similar to snails but lack the enclosing shell are called slugs. Snails are cold-blooded invertebrates with an enclosed shell for hydration and protection purposes.
Let’s look at the life cycle of a snail to get a better understanding.
Life Cycle of Snail
1) The Egg –
Snails are mostly hermaphrodites which means they have both male and female reproductive organs. But, not all snails are hermaphrodites and have separate male and female individual animals. Since most of the snails are considered to be hermaphrodites, it is easy for snails to reproduce. While this is a possibility, snails also reproduce sexually. A snail fertilizes the other snail’s eggs and lays a clutch of eggs. After fertilization, the snail digs holes in the soil and lays her eggs there. Egg laying occurs from late autumn to early spring.
2) The Young Snail –
Two weeks after the eggs are laid in the soil, the hatchlings emerge from the eggs. The young snail eats its egg shell and sometimes other snail eggs. During this stage, the young snails continue to feed and grow, throughout winter and spring season. The enclosed shell begins to develop as well.
3) The Adolescent Snail –
During the summer season, the snail undergoes an aestivation period, by taking rest above ground and climbing fences, roads and vegetation. The purpose of this is to avoid losing as little water as possible. The adolescent snails continue to survive in this way until they reach maturity. If it rains during summer, snails might be active for a while, but they do not mate or breed during the summer.
4) The Adult Snail –
As the autumn season starts, the snails reach sexual maturity and begin to mate. The rainfall creates wet, cool and moist conditions which triggers snail activity. Two to three weeks after the first autumn rain, the mating season in snails begins. Mating snails are found in pairs with the soles of their feet touching each other. The process of egg laying begins shortly after mating and the entire life cycle starts again.
Snails are known to be one of the oldest animals living on the planet. Fossil evidence of primitive gastropods highlight the fact that these creatures have been surviving for 500 million years. There are several kinds of snails, but are mostly classified based on their habitat – terrestrial and aquatic snails. While moving snails tend to leave behind a trail of slime, transparent liquid they create, which allows them to commute on any surface without harming their body.
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Frequently Asked Questions on Snail Life Cycle
What is the difference between snails and slugs?
Snails have an enclosed shell that helps in hostile situations where the snail is able to retract its entire body inside the shell. While the exoskeleton of slugs resembles snails, they do not have the enclosing shells like snails.
Do snails die if their shell breaks?
The enclosed shell in a snail is a significant part of their body, as it helps in hydration and protection. If the shell has minor cracks then the snail survives, but if the shell breaks then the snail dies. Without moisture and protection from the shell, the snail eventually dies.
How long do snails live?
The life expectancy of snails varies from species to species and depends on environmental conditions. While some species live for five years, the species of snails living in captivity can survive for as long as 25 years.
How long can snails survive without food?
Snails can survive for about a week without food.