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Critter Clues

From the September/October 2022 issue of Kind News magazine

Critter Clues
Grape Snail In Nature

Our mystery critter is the snail. Snails can be found all around the world — on land, in oceans, and in fresh water. They are second only to insects when it comes to numbers of known species. Snails’ diets are as diverse as the locations in which they’re found and include seaweed and small fish, algae in lakes and ponds, and leaves and fungus in gardens and parks. They stay safe from predators by being nocturnal, secreting a smelly mucus, and retreating into their hard shells. Snails are known for spiral-coiled shells. Like all mollusks, snails build their shells using an organ called a mantle. The mantle secretes a substance that hardens in layers. Much like how the majority of humans tend to use the right hand and our hair grows in a circular pattern, snails tend to create shell material in a continuing, clockwise direction that creates the spiral.

Snails are often grouped with turtles and sloths as being one of the slower members of the animal kingdom. They use muscular contractions on their undersides called pedal waves to move a long a trail of slime. Patience is required to notice their movements. Researchers in the United Kingdom sat and observed them, and they found that snails were able to glide the length of an average garden in a single night. They quickened their pace by riding on the slime trails of others.

Many species of snails are endangered due to habitat loss, particularly forest habitats which provide for their unique diets.