A snail teeth bite doesn’t draw blood or pierce through your skin as with the case of dogs or cats. They can only run their toothed tongue over your skin which may or may not feel like a bite and that’s because they want to know if it is food!
Snails may be slow but they are fascinating with over 30,000 species on the planet. They can thrive in harsh weathers, scare off predators and even build their own armour. They also have sex and throw their partners love darts.
And so interestingly, can have up to rows of about 20,000 teeth on their tongue!
Snails are gastropods with no internal skeleton or bones but they have their own exoskeleton in form of their shell. They are categorized according to their habitat; land snails, freshwater snails and marine snails.
Depending on their specie, the number of their teeth varies.
Snails appear harmless don’t they? Snails do not have their teeth glaring at you when you are about to pick them up but in actual fact, these teeth are just right there! The teeth hook inward making it easy to latch on to their meal and swallow.
The most fascinating snail variety with an incredible teeth is the limpets; a small type of sea snail.
The limpets are the most dentally gifted with their teeth being made up of reinforced fine minerals called goethite and according to one study, they are the toughest biological material on earth beating the spider silk.
When you pick up a snail with bare hands (which is not too healthy and safe) and feel the snail mouth closing up on your finger or skin, well, it just wants to know if it is edible or not; remember they can eat over 50 varieties of fruits and vegetables.
Snails are generally harmless to humans except well the Cone snail which is highly venomous.
Having an in-depth knowledge about the snail teeth and possible bites can go a long way in affirming that snails are harmless and bring some more people to love them.
The Snails’ Mouth
The mouth houses the teeth in many organisms and this include the snail. The snails’ mouth is located on the underside of its body towards the front end and close to the snails’ tentacles. A closer look can reveal a snail opening its mouth.
The snail jaw is designed to cut off larger pieces of food like bay leaf to be rasped by the radula. The radula which consists of thousands of microscopic teeth rasps up food for the snail.
The Snails’ Teeth
Snails are soft muscular creatures with a shell but in actual fact, they have over a thousand of them and right there on their tongues! The snail teeth are however not pearly whites like that of mammals but are made up of chitin just like the material found in a crab shell.
These teeth are arranged in rows on their tongue-like band called a radula. The snail radula moves around in the mouth allowing the snail have control and move its teeth in back and forth motions.
Snails have between 1000 to 20000 teeth in their mouth depending on their specie. The teeth grow at the back of the mouth and the rows of the teeth move forward once the front teeth wear out making space for a new set of teeth to grow at the back again.
This cycle is continuous until the snail dies; snails grow till they die.
This is the adaptive method of the snail keeping its numerous teeth healthy, strong and in place. Snails with more teeth eat plants than those with fewer teeth that favour meat; that I find odd.
The Snail Bite
Snails are naturally herbivores so there is no reason to feed on human flesh. Snails crawl along and graze on possible food with their sense of smell using their lower tentacles and rasp with their toothed tongue to taste the food.
Why a snail will bite is simply because they want to know if it is edible and then go ahead to eat. They can bite and rasp for the following reasons:
- When feeding, they bite their foods to break off tiny pieces for easy swallowing
- When fighting over food, snails can bite each other
- When mating, snails can bite their partner
- When there is protein deficiency, snails can also bite people when they pick them up to complement their diet
- When the human hand or skin smells of food especially after the human picks up food items, the snail can go ahead just to get a taste.
Snail bites whether accidental or intentional doesn’t hurt; as a matter of fact, may not even be felt. It feels more like having a cat lick you or give you a pinch. It is only the cone snail that doesn’t fit this category because they are poisonous.
The cone snail uses a hollow tooth to shoot venom when its feeler is touched, this venom paralyze the fish and then its meal for the cone snail.
In human however, it hurts more than a bee sting and there is often severe pain in the bite area which can result in serious health issues.
Snails do have teeth and numerous one for that matter. These teeth are used to scrap and rasp food into their mouth and not to bite. The snail teeth called radula grows at the back with the front row replaced when it wear out.
Snail bites are nothing serious except for the cone snail which can result in serious health issues. They also bite humans when they are extremely hungry or smell food on the human hand or skin.
The texture of the snail teeth is similar to the surface of sandpaper so you can imagine how that will feel on your skin.
Snails do have a very interesting lifestyle, defense mechanisms and survival skills that have been fascinating to science, medicine and technology not forgetting the artists as well. What do you enjoy most about the snails?