In which countries do people eat snails?
Snails are the only molluscs that live not only in water but also on land. On land they crawl slowly, leaving a trail of slime on which they slide. Land snails can be roughly divided into slugs and shell snails. In Switzerland they are called house snails, in other words: house snails, because they carry a small house with them.
Snails are found all over the world, even in the Arctic and Antarctic seas. They can be smaller than a millimeter. One species of snail in the Indian Ocean can even reach a length of up to 90 centimeters.
The individual snail species are very different from each other. The following applies to all: As with all molluscs, the body consists of the head, the foot, the viscera and the coat. Everything else can be very different. Therefore, this article mainly describes examples.
What do snail bodies look like?
Shell snails carry a shell on their back. It corresponds to the shell of the mussels. They can withdraw into there. They do this when they are dry and close the opening with a thick layer of mucus. The land snails also do this to better survive the winter. The viscera always remains in the shell.
In the case of the slugs, the shell has disappeared in the course of evolution. All that remained was something like a thick skin called a “coat”. The viscera is under the coat.
Head and foot look like one piece. All snails have antennae, but only a few have eyes. Scientists call them "cup eyes". These are depressions in the skin in the shape of a cup. There are up to 30 visual cells on its surface. The light only ever falls on a part of these photoreceptor cells. This enables the snail to see where it is lighter or darker. The eyes sit black dots on top of the antennae.
All snails are deaf, but at least the land snails can smell very well. However, they do not have a nose, but rather individual cells with which they can smell. They mainly sit on the front half of the body.
How do snails live?
Land snails move very slowly. They put a carpet of slime under their feet on which they can slide. This slime carpet also protects you from sharp surfaces. To move forward, lift your foot a little at the back, creating a fold like a carpet. They then let this fold move forward to the head. Then the next fold follows. This can be observed very nicely by letting a snail crawl over a glass plate.
Land snails do not tolerate drought or even sun. They are therefore particularly active at dusk, at night or when it rains. When the sun is shining, they retreat to the shade so that they don't dry up.
Land snails spend the winter in crevices. They go as deep as possible because the ground does not freeze much there. Shell snails withdraw into their shell and close the entrance with a thick layer of mucus, which then becomes hard.
Snails can neither flee nor defend themselves, which is why they have many enemies: hedgehogs, moles, shrews, frogs, toads, blindworms, salamanders, grass snakes and many birds like to eat snails. They provide a lot of protein, similar to the fish. In times of hunger there are many more animals that would rather eat snails than nothing, for example foxes.
How do snails feed?
No snail has real teeth, but all have a rasp tongue. The land snails use it to scrape off plant parts like with a file. What they get in their mouth is fine enough that they can swallow it and digest it.
Snails are the horror of gardeners. They first eat everything on the plants that is tender. Then they also get to grips with the stems. This way, whole salads can disappear in one night. There are also flowers that they love very much, for example the marigolds, which are also called student flowers. They have a strong smell and magically attract the snails.
There are also snails that eat carrion, i.e. dead animals. These snails have small rasp teeth. The cone snail from the sea, for example, has few small teeth like harpoons with which it injects poison into its prey. The prey animals are paralyzed and the snail can eat them.
How do snails reproduce?
Most snails are bisexual, so there are males and females. So are all sea snails and some freshwater snails. Their young develop as larvae that swim freely in the water.
The land snails are hermaphrodites. They include the Roman snail and the red slug, which is also known as the horse snail in Switzerland. With these snails, every animal is male and female at the same time.
In science, hermaphrodites are called hermaphrodites, i.e. hermafrodites. During mating, one animal first slides its penis into the vagina of the other and releases its sperm cells, then they change roles. Both snails then carry fertilized egg cells, which develop into eggs.
Each animal then digs a small cave in the earth and lays the eggs inside. These develop independently until the small snails hatch. They are immediately independent and look for their own food.
Do snails harm or benefit nature and humans?
Nature knows no pests. Everything benefits the cycle of life. Many living things feed on snails and their eggs. That is why snails are also important for nature.
When people create fields or gardens, they interfere with nature. There the snails multiply very quickly because they find a lot of food. In addition, the snails' enemies are often missing in these plantations because they can no longer find natural habitats. Then the snails take over and eat everything bald.
Farmers and gardeners must therefore do something about snail plagues. Some gardeners take advantage of the fact that snails need moisture: They lay boards or bricks and the snails crawl under them. The gardeners then collect them there.
You can also get specific animals that the snails eat: Various quails or ducks have proven their worth so far. But it is also useful to design the garden in such a way that hedgehogs or blindworms, for example, feel comfortable in it.
Snail venom is very effective. The problem is that the poison gets into the environment in other ways or that, for example, slow-worms eat snails that have just swallowed snail venom. The slow worms can also die from this, and the snail plague becomes even greater.
Who Eats Snails?
There were already recipes for snails in ancient Rome. They were considered a delicacy, a special treat. In the Middle Ages, a pope declared that snail meat was lean: this meant that the monks were allowed to eat them even during Lent. Later on, snails were considered a food for poor people.
That changed again in the years after 1800. Especially in France, snails are very popular. By the way, they are very healthy food, as they contain hardly any fat, but valuable proteins and minerals. However, they become less healthy if they are cooked and butter is added, for example.
Today the Roman snails are usually eaten as a delicacy. This snail species is protected and may not be collected in the wild. However, it is allowed to breed them on snail farms.
Mediterranean sand snails on a plant, France
The casing of a spiral staircase snail
Cowrie snails are sea snails. In some cultures they are used as jewelry or even as money.
Star snails also live in the sea.
Snail eggs are a delicacy.
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