Find out how many teeth does a snail have, if they have teeth at all, and what these small, ubiquitous animals eat.
Do snails possess teeth?
Indeed, they do! But don’t expect them to resemble the teeth you’re familiar with. Prepare for a slippery journey into the captivating mystery of gastropods: the existence of snail teeth.
How many teeth does a snail have?
The answer is a fascinating one – a snail can boast anywhere between 1,000 to 12,000 teeth. However, these teeth are a far cry from the pearly whites found in your mouth.
According to Dr. Gordon Port, a senior lecturer at Newcastle University, most snail species possess a tongue that bears a striking resemblance to ours, except theirs is covered with rows of tiny teeth. This unique tongue, called a radula, functions almost like a saw, scraping and consuming the soft parts of their food. As they use their radula, the teeth gradually wear out, leading to regular replacements.
Interestingly, there are some snail variations with rather astonishing radulas. For instance, species like cone snails, which inhabit warm tropical waters, have venomous radulas that paralyze their prey before consumption.
The radula is a horny structure present in mollusks, with the exception of bivalves, equipped with small chitinous teeth on its surface to scrape or tear off food and draw it into the mouth.
Now that we’ve explored snail teeth, let’s not forget about slugs. They, too, possess radulas covered in thousands of tiny teeth. Some predatory slugs, such as the Welsh ghost slug, boast radulas adorned with razor-sharp teeth about half a millimeter long, used for hunting and devouring earthworms.
It’s not just snails and slugs that employ a radula in their feeding process; many squids also have one in their mouths. Since the throat runs directly through the squid’s brain, the serrated tongue of the squid is necessary to break down food into tiny pieces. After all, I’m sure you’d agree that a piece of crab bumping into your brain would certainly ruin your dinner.
What is the general diet of snails?
Although a snail might not be the tidiest guest at a dinner party (with traces of mucus here and there), it’s certainly not a picky eater.
These creatures will consume any organic matter they come across, mostly during the night. Some snail species specialize in feeding on soft young plants or algae. Moreover, certain snails, like moon snails, have even been known to prey on each other. Nevertheless, for the most part, any decomposing substance serves as a suitable meal for them.
As a result, snails and slugs play a significant role in the food web. They help decompose organic matter, which in turn becomes food for many other animals, creating a chain of sustenance in nature.