Are snails born with their shells?

Do baby snails look like slugs, or just tiny snails?

Land snails emerge from their underground burrows a few weeks after breaking free from their egg. The baby has its shell from the very beginning, but it is clear in colour and extremely soft􏰀. It’s called a ‘protoconch’, meaning ‘early shell’, and it undergoes a lot of changes as the mollusc grows.

The first thing a baby snail does is feast on the egg from which it emerged. It’s vital to get enough calcium into the body to help the flexible shell harden. Over the coming months the animal gets bigger, and its spiral-shaped home expands with it.

Around 30,000 snail species live in the sea, and their lives start out a little differently. Adult females release thousands of eggs into the open ocean, which dri􏰀􏰀ft around as part of plankton. The tiny larvae that hatch have so􏰀ft shells similar to their relatives on land, and they eventually settle as adults on the seabed or along the shore.

 

We’ve got the answers to more of your animal questions in World of Animals issue 53 – out now in shops and available to buy online!