May 01

Cheat Sheets: Snails



It has been a while since I wrote a cheat sheet for the site so I figured it was time to do so again. Right now, I am the proud snail-sitter of about 10 snails. They will be going back into a nice spot in my yard very soon, not the garden where they were caught, and they have provided endless opportunities for learning. This year more than any other year since I have been able to show the kids snails of all different sizes from little baby snails no bigger than a pencil eraser to the large adult snails.

This isn’t the first time that we learnt about snails, actually it is a topic that we have pursued several times. I guess when your a kid, you can’t get bored about anything that is slimy and as interesting as a snail.

So here are a few facts about snails that you may find interesting and at the very least, you will know the answer to it.

  • Snails are not insects but are in fact mollusks and belong to the same family as clams.
  • Snails are gastropods, which means “stomach foot.”
  • Snails have both female and male reproductive organs.
  • The largest snail in the world weighed in at 2lbs and 15 inches long

Now that we have a few interesting facts. Let’s look at the external anatomy of the snail.

  1. The Shell: this is the most obvious part of the snail and the one that will be easy for your child to find. It protects the snail and provides a home on its back. Of course, there is a difference between a home and a habitat.
  2. The Foot: this makes up most of the body of the snail and is what the snail moves on.
  3. Respiratory Pore: there is a small hole on the side of the snails body just below the shell where the snail breaths from.
  4. The Head: A pretty obvious part of the body, it is identified by the four tentacles protruding from it.
  5. The Tentacles: there are four on the head. Two small ones and two long ones.
  6. The Eye Spots: found at the end of the long tentacles, these are the eyes so when you poke a tentacle to get it to go in, you are actually poking the snail in the eye.
  7. The Mouth: also found on the head, it contains tongue with file-like teeth, which is called the radula.

For an excellent printout on snail anatomy, I would recommend this site.

Before I close off on this topic, I would like to mention a few things about keeping snails. If your kids are like mine, chances are they have already asked to keep a snail or two. It is very easy to set up a terrarium for a snail and all you need to be sure of having are a few plants, and a cuttle bone so the shells stay hard. In the wild, snails will eat limestone and other rocks to maintain the right amount of minerals to keep the shell hard. In captivity, snails do not have the alternative food so it is important to provide it.

If you are keeping a snail, you can feed it any type of fruit or vegetables (I found they love apples) and you will need to keep the terrarium moist. Spray the snails with a water bottle every day. If you forget, don’t worry too much. Snails will often close up their shell with a plug of mucus and then hibernate during times of drought or lack of food. If your snail does this, simply spray with water and watch as it slowly wakes up.

I hope this fills you in a bit on snails.

Sirena Van Schaik

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