Sea snails are a species you can find at the bottom of the sea. They spend all their lives in the dark and rely on gills to breathe. The animal is only active during low tide when they’re able to move around freely. In this article, we will see what do sea snails eat, and we will share some other interesting facts about the species.
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Sea Snails Habits and biology
Sea snails are a diverse group of animals. There are many subspecies, and sometimes, it can be hard to tell that they belong to the same family. They inhabit salt bodies of water and utilize gills for breathing. However, certain species also have lungs, such as false limpets from the families Trimusculidae and Siphonariidae.
Another thing characteristic of these animals is the presence of operculum. It is a unique structure that covers the cortex. Operculum creates a unique lid that covers the animal from an external view and, thus, predators.
Snails have strong shells that protect the animal. In most cases, these shells will have a coil shape, but there are also conical shells that biologists refer to as limpets. Their shape can vary significantly, and some subspecies have interesting shell structures, such as Jujudae, which have two hinged plates.
In most cases, these shells are very small, and the largest one belongs to the family Syrinx aruanus at 91 centimeters. At the same time, certain sea snails have shells that are less than 1 millimeter in length. Given their durability, scientists can preserve them as fossils for the future generation.
Here are the most common sea snail habits:
- The species can swim and sink in water, which is their most important trait. It affects how they interact with other animals and is crucial for the marine ecosystem.
- Scientists theorize that their movement is affected by the shape of their shells. Although they belong to the same species, different sea snails have different organs for swimming and sinking.
- Both land and sea snails are hermaphrodites meaning they have male and female sexual organs. When they reproduce, two penises will penetrate two vaginas. Both have a chance of bearing offspring, but usually, the one with better sperm is more likely to impregnate the other snail.
What do sea snails eat in the wild?
The species looks for food during high tide. The water will wash them onto the shore, where they will scour for plants. Sea snails can be herbivores or carnivores. The animal has a feeding tongue that allows them to scrape plants from the rocky surfaces, reefs, and sediments.
Here are some of the things that species eat:
- Other invertebrates
Some carnivore species can use their tongue to penetrate the shells of other animals. It is a very strong organ with enormous power behind it. A good example is the oyster drill sea snail that uses its radula to punch holes in oyster shells. The strength of the tongue can vary depending on a specific subspecies.
The animal needs to have a strong shell for protection. Because of that, calcium is the most important mineral in their diet. They get a lot of this substance when consuming other species’ meat. The animal is often cannibalistic and has no problem eating other sea snail species.
As mentioned, their dietary habits depending on species. Most of them are herbivores. By eating algae, the sea snails also ensure their habitat is clean. It is also worth noting that the species can eat dead plant matter.
Some people like having sea snails in their aquarium. However, if you decide to keep them, you will have to give them just the right amount of food. The problem with sea snails is that they need enough plant matter to function, yet if you give them too much food, they will pollute the tank’s water.
In most cases, pet lovers keep herbivore sea snails. You can put algae on the tank’s walls mimicking the natural environment. Alternatively, you can place algae wafers. According to biologists, pet owners should give their snails as much food they can eat in three minutes. Do this twice a day.
A good way to test if the snail ate enough is to provide additional food. If the animal doesn’t even touch the supplemental algae in the next two days, you’re probably feeding it too much. However, this might also indicate that the pet doesn’t like it. So, you can try something else.
Facts about sea snails
Although very timid, certain subspecies are ruthless with their prey. They are one of the rare hermaphrodite animals. Here are some interesting facts about sea snails:
- Although the sea snails shell provides great protection, it does have one weak point. There is an opening through which the animal can put their foot out. It is a very muscular organ that works like a suction cup. The species utilize it for sticking to rocks or for burrowing into the sand.
- Given they have only one entrance point, the species can use it to put out their head and tongue. They have a disc that can close that hole at will. When a snail is washed on the shore or facing a predator, they will cover it with the disc allowing them to hide inside. This mechanism is also useful as it prevents them from drying out.
- We can categorize sea snails into several groups: cone snails, abalones, and limpets.
- People love gathering sea snail shells, and this habit can sometimes jeopardize the whole species.
- Like land snails, sea snails are very slow. In fact, they are one of the slowest marine animals. When moving, they leave a trail of white slime behind them. Occasionally, you might see two snails in a column. They follow one another because it is easier to move in a slime that the first one left.
- Sea snails’ food and tentacles are crucial for interacting with the environment. As the animal moves, it will touch the nearby rocks, sand, and everything else in its path.
- Although this is a hermaphrodite species, they still have a courtship ritual. During the process, both individuals will perform the same kind of dance.
- Depending on the species, the sea snails can fertilize eggs internally but also externally. The types of snails that reproduce asexually (externally, without penetration) are especially troublesome as they can multiple rather quickly.
- Certain types of snails don’t have teeth. Instead, they have a unique ribbon in their mouth. They use it to tear and grind food. Still, it is a very strong organ which they can use for meat.
- Sea snails are much more diverse than their land counterparts. In fact, the majority of snail species live in water.
- Although very important for natural balance, these animals can also present a threat. The animals reproduce quickly, and their offspring can ravage the species living within their environment. This is especially troublesome if you decide to keep certain species as pets.
- The animal’s shell is not always strong. All snails are born with it, but at first, the organ is very soft and transparent. Only when they accumulate enough calcium in their bodies will it become harder and in solid color.
- Some snail species can be venomous. The cone snail has a very potent toxin that can kill humans. It has a venomous sting, which they can eject from their bodies like a harpoon. You can easily tell that the species is venomous by its colorful shell. So far, cone snails have taken 27 human lives.
- While the majority of snails are very small, there are a few species that are rather large. Giant whelk is a great example. These sea snails can grow bigger than 70 centimeters in length.
- Reproduction can be deadly for many snail species. When giving birth, the animal will expend a lot of energy resulting in an enormous loss of body mass. As a result, about 30% of all snails will die when giving birth to their offspring.
- Certain sea snail species can have up to 20,000 teeth. They are very strong and are regarded as one of the strongest natural materials. For example, experts claim that the teeth of limpet snail are much stronger than spider silk. They can take lots of pressure and, in theory, they could be used for cutting diamonds.
- Besides the fact that some people eat snails, their eggs are also considered a delicacy. They can be from 3 to 6 millimeters in diameters, and gourmets describe them as a crunchier version of caviar. In a way, they resemble baked mushrooms.
Sea snails are a very diverse aquatic family. Most of them eat plants, but there are a few predatory species. Depending on the type of snail, they may or may not have teeth. The animal is very slow and has a unique reproduction method.
In theory, you can even keep them in an aquarium. But you need to be careful about the species as some can pose a danger for other animals.