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Sea Snails

Things You Might Not Know About Sea Snails

Sea snails are commonly known as those slow moving creatures with a coiled shell.  They are found living in a variety of locations such as deserts, ditches and even the deep sea.  Marine snails take up the majority population of the snail family and they can often be found in fresh water in addition to salt water.

Sea snails are considered herbivores, however, some are omnivores.  Plants, fruit and bark are common choices but algae is the most popular source of nutrients however, some will feed on other small animals.  Sea snails do have teeth but not your common perception of what teeth look like.  They technically have radulas which are very hard, ribbon looking organs that have tiny rows of teeth on them.  Some will only have a few teeth while other snails have thousands.  As the teeth wear down, new ones are produced.  They do not exactly chew their food but rather grind and tear it.  Sea snails are often popular in aquariums as an accessory to eat debris from the sides of tanks.

They travel by using their “foot” which is actually a muscular organ that is long and is spread underneath the body of the sea snail.  The snail is able to move forward by making a sort of ripping motion using its foot.  When it moves, the snail leaves behind a bit of a slime, which coats the area that the snail is trying to move along on.  If you watch a snail on a dry surface, you can see that it leaves a trail of slime behind it.  Seas snails are very slow moving creatures and could spend the better part of a day just trying to travel across your yard.

The eyes of the sea snail can be found at the base of one pair of tentacles, however, some other species of snails don't even have eyes at all.  They breathe through gills or sometimes through a thin tissue layer called the mantle that wraps round the body of the snail like an envelope.  Sea snails use their gills like a fish would to retrieve oxygen out of the water.  The gills are found in the cavity of the mantle.

Although sea snails have predators, it is not likely for them to be eaten due to their hard exterior shell.  The snail can protect itself easily by withdrawing its body behind the operculum that works like a trap door.  Sea snails can actually increase their shell size by using calcium carbonate located in the sea water.  The calcium carbonate is deposited onto the edge of the shell.

Due to the slow characteristics of a sea snail, their name is often associated with being a symbol related to laziness.  A verse in Psalms from the bible refers the use of snail slime as being a metaphorical punishment.  In ancient times snails signified when it was time to harvest their crops and Tecceztecatl, the moon god of the Aztec wore the shell of a snail located on his back.  This was a symbolization of rebirth.  It is also interesting that dreaming of a snail is representation of the person having the dream.  It is popular to hear people say at a “snail's pace” meaning to move slow or “snail mail”, referring to the slow mail service.  So, technically this little creature has given society a symbolism of slowness and rebirth.  Sea snails may move slow because that's the way their body is created to function but they are hard workers.  Just moving to get to their food takes so much work, so next time you notice a snail in an aquarium feeding on algae, think about just how long it had to actually work to just clear one strip off the glass; chances are it was a whole day of work.



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