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How Snails Feed

Most terrestrial snails are herbivorous, feeding on a wide range of vegetation. The snail’s mouth is on the bottom of its head near the shorter pair of tentacles. Snails (and all molluscs) consume their food not with mouthparts, like insects, or teeth, like mammals, but with a rasping tongue or radula. Snails don’t bite their food, but rather, rasp or scrape it. The radula is covered with rows of tiny “toothlets” which rasp particles away from vegetation and move them back towards the snail’s gullet. Different species of snails have differently-shaped toothlets. The radula is used by the snail not only to process food, but to clean bits of dried mucus from its shell. Supposedly if you listen hard, you can actually hear a rasping sound when the latter is occurring. (If you look hard, you can just barely see the orange radula of the land snail in the photograph.)

3 responses

  1. Kathie Fiveash

    As we look at the arch shaped face of the snail, what are the two spherical bumps the color of the shell at each end of the arch? Are they light receptors, or actual eyes, or something else entirely?

    August 16, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    • Some land snails, including this one, have four tentacles. The upper, longer two each have a dark spot at the tip (not visible in this photo), which are its eyes. Their eyes have lenses, but they don’t have the muscles that would allow them to focus, so they don’t do much more than detect light. The two lower, shorter tentacles, either side of the radula, are olfactory sensory organs, and snails use them to smell their environment (they usually are pointed towards the ground) as well as to locate food and mates.

      August 16, 2012 at 2:38 pm

  2. Doreen Morse

    Very interesting. How many types of land snails can one find in New England?

    August 16, 2012 at 12:55 pm

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