Belonging to a diverse group of animals called mollusks, snails share the same class (Gastropoda) with slugs. Snails are cold-blooded animals with soft, unsegmented bodies. They feed on a variety of food sources depending on the species and habitat where they occur.
What do snails eat? Most species of snails are herbivores and primarily consume plants such as grasses, herbs, fruits, vegetables, flowers, and fungi. While some would feed on fresh green plants, most snails prefer consuming rotten vegetation. Other species of snails are carnivorous and feed on insects and other snails.
The feeding behavior of some species of snails could cause significant damage to economically important crops; thus, gaining a pest status in several countries. In this article, we will explore different types of snails and their food preference.
What Can Snails Eat and Not Eat?
Snails are nocturnal animals and thus would actively feed during the night. They are largely herbivorous, consuming mostly plants and vegetables. Other snails, on the other hand, would occasionally consume insects and purely carnivorous. In cases where food is not available, snails could be seen feeding directly on the dirt.
There are claims that acidic (citrus) fruits should be avoided. Thus, when raising snails, such food sources should only be given sparingly. In addition, anecdotal evidence suggests that feeding pasta and other starchy food could cause the snails to get bloated and die.
Moreover, snails can also drink water. Snails would absorb water either through their skin or by drinking directly from puddles or upper layers of soil surface. In the wild, snails have been known to survive up to four years without food during their dormant stage.
What Do Snails Eat In the Wild?
In the wild, snails would feed on a diversity of food sources. Depending on food preference, snails could be herbivores, carnivores, fungivores, and detritivores. While most snails are herbivores (feeding on plant material), the diet of some species could be a combination of plant and animal matter, fungi, and even other snails and their eggs.
Additionally, snails are also in need of calcium as their shell develops. Thus, snails would also scrape off soft stones or consume soil directly. When available, snails would eat chalk, eggshells, and even shells of other snails as a source of calcium.
What Vegetables Do Snails Eat?
Snails consume several types of plant material, depending on availability. Some crops that are known to be food sources of snails are lettuce, eggplant, cabbage, and spinach. Most snails obtain these foods by invading gardens and agricultural farms.
What Fruits Do Snails Eat?
Herbivorous snails are known to feed on fruits (either ripening or decaying) such as the following:
What Is a Snail Favorite Food?
Snails feed on a variety of food sources. Food preference would depend on species and habitat where they occur. In general, snails would consume either plant or animal material or both. In cases where food is not available, snails would feed on dirt.
How Much Do Snails Eat?
Most species of snails could consume food ranging from 10 to 20 percent of body weight daily. For instance, an adult burgundy snail could eat up to 6 grams of plant material per day.
How Do Snails Eat?
Snails feed by using their radula, a tongue-like structure where hundreds of teeth are attached. When feeding, snails rasp their radula back and forth over a surface or a substrate to scrape off food.
Do Snails Have Teeth?
Snails have teeth. Inside a snail’s mouth is its radula or the tongue-like structure, which is covered with sharp serrated teeth. They have hundreds of serrated teeth attached to their radula, which they use to scrape food off a surface.
The shape of a snail’s tooth would vary depending upon the food that it consumes. For instance, snails that feed on kelp have pointed, cusped teeth, while those that feed on eelgrass beds have broad, blunt-shaped teeth.
10 Types of Snails and Their Diet
1. Roman Snail (Helix Pomatia)
Helix pomatia are large, edible snails found mostly in Europe. Their shells are brown with up to five light brown bands and could range from 1.50” to 1.97” in height and diameter.
Adult Roman snails are herbivores and therefore feed on plant parts such as leaves, flowers, fruits as well as plant fluids. In the wild, these Roman snails consume approximately six grams of plant material daily.
2. Giant African Land Snail (Achatina Fulica)
As the name implies, giant African land snails originated in Africa. Their body lengths could reach as long as 8 inches. These snails have earthy tones, which enables them to camouflage into their environment, offering protection from their predators.
Giant African snails are herbivorous organisms. Unlike most snails that prefer eating rotten vegetation, giant African snails generally have no particular preference. These snails would consume up to 500 plant species of living or decaying plant material, making them a major threat to the agricultural industry.
Depending on their age and geographic region where they are located, giant African snails would consume a variety of plant resources:
|Young||Algae, decaying matter, soft fruits (banana, beets)|
|Adult||Living vegetation, breadfruit, eggplant, cucumber, cocoa, peas, papaya, pumpkin, rubber, tobacco, potatoes, peanut, other snails, lichen, fungi, and animal matter|
3. Mediterranean Green Snail (Cantareus Apertus)
Mediterranean green snail or green garden snails are native to Southern Europe and North Africa. They are characterized by their olive-green shells and white flesh.
As with other species of snails, Mediterranean green snails also cause significant damage to plants, particularly pasture grasses and leafy vegetables such as cabbages, lettuce, and cauliflowers. In some cases, plants are severely damaged, with all leaves devoured.
4. Garden Snail (Cornu Aspersum)
Garden snails are found in many places around the world. Their introduction was either due to snail hobbyists or people who consume snails. Garden snails are distinguished with their wrinkled yellow-colored shells with alternating bands of yellow and brown streaks.
Garden snails are herbivores that feed on various plant resources such as vegetables, fruits, flowers, trees, shrubs, and cereals. These snails could occur in huge numbers and cause severe damage to the agricultural industry.
5. Brown-Lipped Snail (Cepaea Nemoralis)
Brown-lipped snails or grove snails have highly polymorphic shell colors. The shell could have varying colors such as pink, yellow, or brown with up to five brown or black bands.
Brown-lipped snails consume plant material and prefer rotten over fresh vegetation. Adults have a strong preference for herbs. They would also occasionally consume grasses, while the immature brown-lipped snails would not. Some of the commonly consumed plant resources are Lotus corniculatus and Urtica dioica.
6. White-Lipped Snail (Cepaea Hortensis)
White-lipped snails exhibit shell color polymorphism with the color yellow, pink, or brown colors with 1-5 dark or brown bands. Their appearance is almost similar to brown-lipped snails but with less polymorphism. These snails are often found attached to plants in sheltered locations. White-lipped snails are herbivorous and prefer consuming nettles, ragwort, and hogweed.
7. Milk Snail (Otala Lactea)
Milk snails are nocturnal herbivores. Shells have whitish color but will also exhibit variation ranging from plain white to dark brown with spiral bands. They usually occur in large colonies, causing severe damage to various plant communities, thus gaining a pest status in some countries.
8. Apple Snails (Ampullariidae)
Belonging to the family Ampullariidae, the snails of the genera Pomacea and Pila are more commonly referred to as apple snails owing to their round greenish snails.
Of these two species, species belonging to the genus Pomacea have become one of the most invasive pests, particularly in several countries in Southeast Asia. They feed on stems of rice and taro crops causing significant damage that eventually kills the plant.
9. Mystery Snails (Pomacea Bridgesii)
Mystery snails are freshwater organisms found mostly in the tropics and subtropics. These organisms are common in the aquarium trade, which potentially led to their introduction in other regions. Belonging in the genus Pomacea, these mystery snails can also be referred to as apple snails. Their shell varies in color, such as yellow or brown, which could sometimes exhibit banding.
In a laboratory experiment, it was discovered that mystery snails prefer animal food over plant food. When fed with Tubifex and Branchiodrilus worms, decomposed prawns and molluscan flesh, and fishes, mystery snails were able to devour them completely, leaving only the exoskeleton in the cases of decapods and fishes.
10. Golden Apple Snail (Pomacea Canaliculata)
Golden apple snails are an introduced species of snails found in Southeast Asia. Their rapid growth has caused the displacement of native species, which eventually led to its establishment in several countries in this region.
Golden apple snails are found in fresh bodies of water such as lakes and wetlands. These herbivorous organisms feed on aquatic plants but have a strong preference for rice and taro, bringing about huge economic losses.
Are Any Snails Poisonous?
Cone snails found in tropical marine environments are known to contain one of the most powerful venoms on Earth. Buried beneath the sand, these snails patiently wait for their prey. Using their siphon, they can sense whether there is nearby prey. It then sticks out its tongue with a harpoon on the tip, which is filled with venom.
Once a fish gets injected with the venom, it immediately gets paralyzed. The cone snails then open their mouth wide enough to engulf their prey completely.
Human fatalities caused by two species of cone snails: Conus geographus and Conus textile have also been recorded. Death was reportedly caused by paralysis of the diaphragm and cardiac failure.
Snails are generally harmless to humans but could cause significant damage to gardens and agricultural farms. These organisms are nocturnal and would actively feed at night.
Most snails are herbivores and feed on plants, including grasses, herbs, vegetables, fruits, and fungi. The majority of snails have a strong preference for rotten or decaying plants over fresh vegetation.
Although most snails are plant-eaters, some feed on both plants and animals, while some are purely carnivorous. Due to the extent of the feeding behavior of snails, some have gained a pest status in several countries.
List of Sources
Capinera, J. L., White, J. (2021). Terrestrial Snails (Phylum Mollusca, Class Gastropoda) Affecting Plants in Florida. University of Florida.
Dekle, G. W., Fasulo, T. R. (2021). Brown garden snail. University of Florida.
Green Snail. (2019). Government of South Australia – Department of Primary Industries and Regions.
Patera clenchi – Nutrition. University of Wisconsin La Crosse.