We all know that snails can do havoc in our gardens, eating seemingly everything they come across. But how do they actually eat our plants? Do snails have teeth or do they eat plants in another way?
Yes, snails do have teeth. In fact, snails can have up to 25,000 teeth!
While snails have teeth, they are not present on jaws. Instead, snails have teeth on a radula, which is like their tongue. The radula is found in slugs, too, which is like a ribbon stretching until the deep end of the snail’s mouth.
Snails use their jaws to put food in their mouths but use the teeth on the radula to chew.
How Many Teeth Do Snails Have?
As aforementioned, all the teeth which snails have are to be found on the radula. The teeth range from 10 to 15,000, but some snails have as many teeth as 25,000.
The teeth are organized on the radula in rows, and every row comprises around 100 teeth. You will find that there are around 25 rows. Every tooth is round and conical, centring towards the radula. Working together, the teeth feel like strong sandpaper.
Teeth are important to snails as they enable them to bite and chew. Snails consume a lot of different things and have a varied diet. For instance, snails will eat plant material as well as dying vegetation and animals.
Some snails only stick to leaves, while others hunt other snails. With such a diet, snails need to have great teeth.
When snails consume vegetation, they use their radula to take it in their mouth. Upon contact, the radula will shred the leaves. In addition, predatory snails also consume other insects with their radula.
Why Do Snails Have So Many Teeth?
You may wonder why snails have thousands of teeth and what purpose they serve? Snail teeth can be found on the radula, which is essentially the snail’s tongue.
Snails have so many teeth to chop whatever they eat into small, fine pieces. When eating, the snail will grind up the food and then drag it into its mouth to swallow. The radula will scrap the shredded food, and the bigger pieces are further chopped into smaller pieces.
Another reason why snails have so many teeth is to replace the worn-out ones. When the old teeth wear out, the newer ones at the back replace them.
Can Snails Bite Humans?
Since snails have teeth, many people wish to know if they can be bitten by one. It can come as a surprise, but snails can bite humans.
If snails use their teeth, they can bite, but it does not hurt since they do not put in enough force. It will feel nothing more than a scrape if a snail bites you.
While snails can bite, their teeth are only useful for consuming leaves. One of the reasons why a snail may bite you is if it mistakes your hand for food. Hence, the snail may attempt to eat your hand, but it can never pierce through the skin.
Are Snail Bites Poisonous?
If you are working in a garden and something bites you, you may wonder if it is poisonous. Fortunately, snail bites are not poisonous, and you do not have to worry if one bites you or your pet.
The only poisonous bite is the cone snail which is found underwater. The cone snails stick out a feeler and will shoot venom when interacting with a fish or human. As a result, the fish becomes paralyzed, and the snail eats it.
On the bright side, you do not have to worry about getting bitten by a cone snail unless you are going diving in tropical waters.
Snails are fascinating animals with their shells and protruding tentacles. There are still many features about snails that are not talked about enough. One of the features is the snail’s teeth.
Snails have teeth, but they are not traditional and as the same as humans. Snails have a stretched-out tongue which is called the radula. All the teeth are located on the radula in rows. Snails have a lot of teeth ranging from 10 to 15000. There are some species of snails that have as many teeth as 25000.
Snails have so many teeth to help them shred the food they eat into even smaller pieces. Many people worry if snails can bite them. However, your usual garden snails can bite but not hurt you; it will feel more like a scrape. But, some species of wild snails peel on the skin until blood comes out. Consequentially, the snails will suck the blood until they are full.
Ryan is a keen gardener from the UK who’s spent years dealing with countless, common pests over the years so knows the ins and outs of how to deal with pests in the garden