Snails are a species of mollusks that belong to the family of gastropods. They are easily identifiable by their spiral shell, which they retract into when they are in danger or are resting. The only other species of gastropods are called slugs, with the main difference between them and the snail being the lack of a shell in slugs.

Scientific Classification


Scientific Classification


They are languid creatures, which has also led to the word “snail” becoming a figure of speech for being slow.

Types of Snail

List of the Common Types of Snail Species

There are over 4000 species of snails out there, broadly classified as land snails, freshwater snails, and sea snails.

Land Snails

  • Giant African Land Snail
  • Garden Snail
  • Roman Snail
  • Mediterranean Green Snail
  • White Garden Snail
  • White-Lipped Snail
  • Milk Snail
  • Candy Cane Snail
  • Croatian Cave Snail

Freshwater Snails

  • Mystery Snail
  • Golden Apple Snail
  • Channeled Apple Snail
  • Rabbit Snail
  • Colombian Ramshorn Apple Snail
  • Red Nerite Snail

Sea Snails

  • Common Periwinkle Snail
  • Common Whelk
  • Violet Sea Snail
  • Geography Cone Snail
  • Limpet
  • Sea Butterfly
  • Hairy Triton’s Trumpet

Physical Description and Appearance


Size: Length: 1.9-27.5 in (4.8 to 70 cm)

The smallest species of snail is Angustopila psammion at 4.8 cm, while the largest is the giant whelk at 70 cm.

Weight: 0.055-5.51 lb (0.025 to 25 kg)

Shell: The shell is a vital part of the snail, holding most of its vital organs. It is made of calcium carbonate and shaped like a spiral.

Body and Coloration: The snail’s body is soft and shaped like a tube. Other physical features include a muscular foot, several pairs of tentacles protruding from their head, and two stalks that have eyes on their end.

The primary coloration of snails consists of brown, pink, and yellow. However, striped, red, and white patterns have been observed on the shell.

Range and Distribution

Snails have a cosmopolitan distribution, being found worldwide.


Where do they live

They may live in the soil (or dirt), sand, trees, under rocks or leaves, and in aquatic environments like lakes, oceans, and rivers.

How long do they live

Most snails live for 2-5 years but can live up to 15 years.

What do they eat

The type of dietary habits displayed varies significantly from species to species. Some are generalists, while others are specific feeders. Snails can be carnivorous, herbivorous, omnivorous, or detritivorous. Common food includes carrion, centipedes, feces, foliage, fungi, insects, lichens, worms, and even other snails.

Snail Images


  • Most snails show high activity at night and remain dormant during the day.
  • The activity of the land snail is dependent on humidity, as when the conditions are less humid, they go into a period of dormancy called estivation.
  • Snails may be either solitary or territorial, depending on the species.

What eats them

Predators of the snail include beetles, birds, crabs, fish, rats, shrews, and snakes.


  • Depending on their environment, snails have differing respiratory systems. Land snails have developed lungs, while freshwater and sea snails have gills. However, owing to the diverse number of species out there, some have been observed with both gills and lungs.
  • Most snails have a banded, ribbon-like “tongue” called a radula covered with microscopic teeth-like structures. It helps rip food into manageable pieces.
  • The shells of snails act as protection against predators and other threats.
  • The muscular foot helps the snail move in aqueous and terrestrial habitats, with the mucus layer preventing injury and providing friction along surfaces.
Snail Picture

How do they reproduce

The reproductive system of the snail is quite complex. Most species are hermaphrodites, possessing both male and female genitalia. Snails use smell and taste to locate potential mates. Once they do, one of them stabs the other with an appendage often referred to as a “love dart”. This is done to prevent the penetrated partner from rejecting the sperm from the other snail, increasing the chance of the eggs getting fertilized.

Some species, like the periwinkles and the apple snails, have distinct genders, while others, like garden snails, reproduce asexually without a partner.

Snail Eggs

Life Cycle

After mating, snails lay around 100 eggs, though over 400 have been observed in some cases. Only a small number of these eggs hatch after 2 weeks, approximately 20-50. The larva consumes the shell of their egg as their first source of nourishment.

Initially, baby snails are transparent with very soft shells. They grow quickly, with their shells hardening as they mature. The number of rings on the shell acts as an indicator of the age of the snail. Sexual maturity varies greatly from 6 weeks to almost 5 years.

Baby Snail


As per the IUCN, several species of snails are at risk. Reasons for this include loss of habitat, global warming, and pollution.

Snail – FAQs

1. How long do snails sleep?

Usually, snails sleep for 15-18 hours, but some have been reported to sleep for 3 days.

2. Do snails have teeth?

While they don’t have proper teeth, their radula is covered with tooth-like structures.

3. Are snails poisonous?

Most snails aren’t poisonous, but the cone snail injects prey with venom using a small harpoon-like stinger.

4. Do snails bite?

Yes, snails can bite, but their bites are not very penetrative.

5. Can snails live in desert?

Most species of snail struggle in dry conditions, but some, like Sphincterochila boissieri, are adapted to live in the desert.

6. Do snails hibernate?

If the weather is unsuitable, snails may hibernate during the colder season.

7. How fast can snails move?

Many snails move at less than 3 in/min. If a snail did not stop to rest or eat, it could travel 16 ft/h.

Picture of a Snail

Interesting Facts

  • Snails have been associated with laziness globally because of their slow speed. The term “snail mail” refers to the postal service, while inept and sedate processes are said to move at a “snail’s pace”.
  • The myth of Cupid’s arrow is believed to have originated from the darts fired by snails.
  • In pop culture, snails have been featured quite a bit, most notably the character of Gary from the animated series Spongebob Squarepants.
  • Humans have used snails for several purposes, including being raised as pets, cooking as food, using the shell for jewelry, and their slime for skincare.
  • In England, there was a famous snail called Jeremy whose shell coiled towards the left. This is unique among snails as most shells coil to the right.