The snail is a gastropod mollusk, the body of which is protected by a coiled shell. Characteristic species is the Snail Pomatia (Helix Pomatia), commonly snail, periwinkle, chochlios, Karaolias in the Cypriot dialect. It has oblong body, which partially protrudes from the shell, and head which carries two pairs of antennas. It feeds on vegetable matter (grass, sprouts) which it distracts from the substrate using its tongue (which bears corneous formations like teeth), while it is moving slowly leaving traces of mucus and it appears mostly on rainy days. The snails are active when humidity prevails (e.g. after rain,
during the night) and when the conditions are too dry, they recede inside their shell and seal the inlet with a kind of temporary cap from dried mucus, the epifragma. In this situation the snails are in a kind of "sopor" (sleep) and can survive without water for months. In Europe have been recorded 400 species of snails and worldwide 4000 species. In Greece mainly three species are considered endemic, the Helix lucorum, Helix pomatia and Helix aspersa.
Snail shells have been found in archaeological excavations, an indication that snails are eaten since prehistoric times. A number of archaeological sites around the Mediterranean which were excavated, provides us with physical evidence of culinary use of different snail species. The Romans, in particular, thought snails fine food, as mentioned in the writings of "Pliny the Elder".
- Helix lucorum
- Helix pomatia
- Helix aspersa
Each snail is looking for soft ground to dig and leave its eggs. It stacks them in small pits of 2.5-4 cm. Each snail lays about 85 eggs and small snails are borned after 2-4 weeks. Usually snails lay when there is moisture and the most fertile period is from February to October.
Special characteristics and attributes
- The body of the snails produces a special thick saliva, thanks to which they can crawl across a razor blade without cutting.
- Snails survive in limestone rather than in clay soils, the presence of calcium is essential for the creation of their shell.
- Snails can live up to 15 years.
- Snails are hermaphrodites. This means that each snail has both male and female reproductive organs. To be fertilized it must mate with another snail and bring together their opposing genetical organs.
- Snails move in strange orbits, usually circular.
- Snails are usually based on the sense of touch and smell using the two smaller antennas for finding food, as they have very weak sight.
- Snails because of the viscous saliva they produce, they have excellent adhesiveness to surfaces and they can move, crawling, even when they are hanging downwardly.
- The land snails breathe with lungs.
- The land snails evolved from sea snails 600 million years ago.