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Garden Snails

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Quick Facts

Scientific name:  Cornu aspersa (formerly Helix aspersa)

Size:  Approx 8cm long

Distribution:  Found throughout the UK

Months seen:  All year round.  Mostly active between March and October

Habitat:  Hedgerows, gardens and fields.  Garden snails prefer to feed on areas with chalky soil as this helps shell growth

Food:  Vegetation

Special features:  Garden snails have a grey coloured body and a light brown shell with dark brown markings.  The shell has a white lip at the entrance.  When Garden Snails are moving you can see their head which has two long tentacles, each with an eye at the tip.  Below the eye stalks are two shorter tentacles which help the snail to feel where it is going.  The mouth is situated between these two lower tentacles.

Garden Snails move about on a flat muscular organ called a foot.  Movement of the foot is helped by the release of a mucus which reduces friction over rough surfaces.

During the winter garden snails hibernate, often in large groups, under stones and in crevices of trees.  They seal themselves into their shells with a layer of mucus which hardens to form a cap (called an epiphragm).

Garden snails are hermaphrodites.  Each snail has both male and female sex organs, so although they can self-fertilise they usually reproduce sexually (with a partner).

Mating can last for several hours, during which time the two snails exchange sperm and shoot love darts into each others bodies.  It's thought these love darts contain a hormone-like substance which assists the survival of sperm.

After mating both snails part to lay 40 to 80 eggs each.  The eggs are usually laid in a shallow hole in the ground.  Each egg hatches into a tiny snail after about four weeks.  The shell of the snail grows as the snail's body grows.  Baby garden snails take about two years to reach adult size.

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