Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Snail's Place

Snails and slugs are second only to insects in their number of species. Although marine snails outnumber their terrestrial brethren, land snails live almost everywhere ~ from the mountains to the sea, across meadows, deserts, woodlands, marshes and gardens. Their kin, the slugs, are simply snails with no shells.

As the snail grows, so does the shell. The shell is made of calcium carbonate, which is used medicinally in antacids. The shell forms a logarithmic spiral, and is in most species right-handed. They propel themselves on a "foot" which they lubricate with mucus to reduce friction. As rippling contractions pass across their bodies, they slide forward. Their eyes are at the ends of the tentacles on the top of their heads. They prefer dark, moist, leafy places where they can munch endlessly and they can eat their way through an entire marigold patch overnight. They have natural predators, but retract into their shells for protection. The world's largest snails live in Australia, weighing in at 40 pounds and 30 inches long.

Although an incessant plant eater, snails play their part in Nature's balance. Hand picking and relocating is recommended. The picture is of an ordinary California garden snail, just relocated away from the begonias.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

He looks quite sweet on his new leaf. Thinking of him as happily "relocated" is much nicer than thinking of him and his cronies busily destroying some new blossoms.