With thousands of different species found in a wide variety of habitats, snails are known as gastropod mollusks. The main thing that differentiates them one from the other is whether they live in the water or on land.
Snails come in many different sizes. Land snails breathe air, aquatic snails breathe water. No matter the type of snail, they all carry a hard shell on their back which protects their soft body and internal organs.
This shell is necessary for such slow moving creatures, but of course there are still many predators that like to dine on snails (or, as humans call a snail delicacy–escargot).
What Animals Eat Snails?
Snails have a variety of defense mechanisms, including: camouflaging color and texture; thick shells; barriers to protect their apertures; mucus with irritating smell and taste; and the ability to hide, withdraw, or rapidly dislodge.
However, in spite of all these techniques, snails (particularly land snails) are somewhat low on the food chain because they are abundant, nutritious, and slow.
Some of the animals that feast on snails include:
1. Beetles and their Larvae
Beetle larvae enter the aperture of a snail’s shell to access this delicious treat. Larger beetles can crust small snails.
Although these frightening looking multi-legged creatures tend to be scavengers, they will occasionally munch on a snail given the opportunity.
Some flies, like the Marsh fly, or at least their parasitic larvae, eat snails. Basically, they lay eggs inside the snail, and the larvae eat their way out. They then may remain in their shell until they become full-fledged flies.
Mites are another creature that eats snails from the inside out. Basically, they get eaten first, or swallowed by a snail, and then have plenty of time to travel through the snails system, dining along the way.
Nematodes are small slender worms. They enter through the snail’s respiratory opening. Then they secrete bacteria which decompose the snail from within.
6. Other Snails
While most species of snails are herbivores (feeding on plants) or detritivores (feeding on dead organic material) there are several predatorial snails species.
Yes, snails who eat snails. They can drill a hole into their victim’s shell, and then stick their head into the feast.
This includes shrews, mice, and squirrels. They break a hole into the shell and pull out the snail’s small body. They leave the shell behind, an empty remnant of what once was a living creature.
Ground-foraging birds like thrushes, grouse, blackbirds, and wild turkeys will often dine on a nutritious snail.
Wild turkey are able to swallow even larger snails whole.
Thrushes are able to eat snails too large to swallow by smashing the snails on rocks. The rocks, known as “thrush anvils” can be recognized by the snail shells scattered around.
9. Snail Kites
Another bird, these are snail hunting specialists. They feed exclusively on apple snails. These birds fly at heights over shallow water to hunt for their prey, then they swoop down and grab the snail with their talons. They use their long, slender, hooked beaks to extract the tasty flesh.
Most of the animals mentioned above feast on land snails. But of course, there are plenty of predators who prefer to dine on the aquatic variety of snails. There are also specific predators depending on the species of snail.
Read on for more details.
What Eats Vermetid Snails?
Bumble Bee snails will eat them but prefer other food. The same goes for the bright yellow fish known as Yellow Coris Wrasse, and Emerald crabs.
Vermetid snails consist of approximately 160 species of snails that live in a marine environment. They are often considered pests for those who try to keep an aquarium because these small creatures can harm corals.
They differ from most snails because they have a tubular shell that makes them look like a worm. For this reason, they are sometimes referred to as worm snails or worm shells.
Vermetid snails reproduce in large numbers, and attach themselves in places that might be difficult to access for many predators. There are only a few species known to eat Vermetid snails.
What Eats Pond Snails?
Introducing some natural predators can help reduce the pond snail population. This includes frogs and sterlets (a small species of sturgeon).
Some small fish, like mosquito fish eat snail eggs. The most common fish found in freshwater ponds, Koi, do not eat snails at all.
Various species of pond snails live in freshwater ponds, and some can reach a shell size of up to 7 cm. Many people consider them pests because they multiply very quickly, eat pond plants, and dirty the water with their waste.
What Eats Sea Snails?
Sea Snails consist of a large and diverse group of animals that live in salt water and breathe through gills. There are a few species that breathe are and are only active at low tide.
While crabs and squid eat sea snails, they are protected by the strength and durability of their shells which protects them from most predators.
Of course, it doesn’t protect them from human consumptions. Humans eat sea snails, and also collect their shells for decoration and jewelry.
What Eats Garden Snails?
The common garden snail (also called the brown garden snail) is easily recognizable by its brown rounded shell and grey body.
This snail chews through tender plant leaves. For avid gardeners, this can leave an unsightly mess, or worse kill the plants completely. A natural solution is to invite in the predators.
Small snakes, like garter snakes, enjoy eating snakes. There are approximately 75 snake species that are known for eating snails, but many of them are found in Ecuador or other southern climates.
If snakes are not an option, Decollate snails are a predatory snail species that will eat the common garden snail without harming the plants.
What Eats Freshwater Snails?
We’ve already talked about what eats Pond Snails in ponds, but what about those sneaky freshwater snails that somehow get into your tank?
Pond Snails, Rams Horn Snails, and Trumpet Snails easily sneak into tanks either on plants (in the form of an adult snail or snail eggs) or accidentally scooped up with the fish.
They multiply quickly, and soon a freshwater aquarium can be overwhelmed by snails.
Time to bring in the predators, among other solutions. Clown Loaches and Yoyo Loaches absolutely love to eat snail. They will even search in the pebbles below, where snail families often hide during the day, to find their prey.
Bettas and Gouramis also enjoy snails, but they are not as adept at hunting for their shell=covered prey under hidden under the gravel.
Snails are truly fascinating in that they are so low on the food chain, and yet they have many ways to protect themselves. While they also have many predators, they reproduce quickly so there is no danger of snails disappearing any time soon.