Wednesday, February 1, 2012

One Year of Snailia!

I started this cute and fuzzy blog on January 31st, 2011, so now, after a full year of adorable and interesting critters, Snailia is entering into its second year! I have a very special post to celebrate my favoritest animals ever:

The spectacularly gooey, the fantastically beautiful, the wonderfully smart, SNAIL!
I fell in love with Snails many years ago, at first fascinated by their beautiful spiral shells. Snails are born with their shells and never leave them. Their shell is their home and it grows with them. The rings on the shell can't be counted to figure out the age, like you can do with a tree, but these rings do form spectacular patterns. From the lines on the shell you can understand the kind of conditions a Snail lived in. The shell coils as it grows and forms a spiral shape. Snails are very soft and squishy and can hide in their shells if they feel threatened by predators or bad weather, for example, or maybe they just want to spend some time alone. Sometimes I like to go inside my snail shell if something scares me, because shells are protective.

I'm petting a Giant African Land Snail!

I also love Snails because of their super cool tentacles. A lot of land Snails have four tentacles on their head: two "eyestalks" with little eyes on top, and two smelling tentacles. These tentacles are retractable, meaning the Snail can pull them inside its head!

Snails move around using the muscles in their "foot", which is the underside of their long, squishy body. They also have tiny little hairs, called cilia, on their foot, which help them move and also feel things as they go along. 

He doesn't even get hurt!
Snails are also pretty gooey and slimey, 'cause they produce mucus that covers their bodies. This keeps them moist, because Snails hate being dry, and also helps them crawl around and not get hurt. Some Snails can even crawl over sharp objects and not get injured!

These super cute creatures leave a shiny trail of slime behind them. Sometimes, after a rainfall, you can find these tracks on sidewalks and fences, and see what the Snails have been up to.

Working with Giant African Snails in 2009.

A lot of land Snails eat plants, such as leaves and fruit, and some also eat other animals. Either way, these gooey animals need calcium in their diet to keep their shell strong (kind of like us humans need calcium to make our bones healthy). I've worked with a few different species of Snails, such as Giant African Land Snails, Moon Snails (who live in the ocean), and Dog Whelks (who also live in the ocean), and they all have different cool features.

A Snail party.

The Giant African Land Snails are exactly what their name suggests: Giant! They really like to eat fruit and a lot of people like to keep them as pets. Many countries no longer allow these Snails to be brought in, in fear that these big creatures will eat a lot of the local plants and animals. Some people even consider them "pests", but I would love to have a hundred of these Snails hanging out in my backyard!

Me holding a Moon Snail in Summer 2010.

The Moon Snail is another big Snail, but this one lives in the ocean. Moon Snails eat other shelled animals, such as Mussels, by puncturing a hole in the shell. These big gooey animals like to burrow in the sand to hide and find food.

Dog Whelks are also Snails that live in the ocean, but these guys prefer to live on rocks,
instead of sand. They have long, pointy shells, and the kind I worked with had spotted bodies. They also eat other animals through a long tube called a "proboscis", which is just like a straw that we use for drinking. 

Snails are my favorite animal for a lot of reasons, more than just the ones I've shared above. So when our Snail friends appear again in the Spring and Summer (they hibernate in the colder seasons!) please be careful of where you step, and avoid crushing these super adorable animals. A Snail with a broken shell cannot survive, although it can repair a small crack.

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