Snails are invertebrate animals that are widespread. They are food for a variety of predators, including rodents, beetles, fish, and other snails, and they may be found both on land and in the water. Even though snails have a protective shell, unlike their slug cousins, a long number of things consume them.
Learn more about the predators that maintain snails towards the top of the food chain in this article.
What Eats Snails?
Snails are consumed by beetles, shrews, fish, snakes, birds, crabs, and rats. In most cases, a snail’s attempt to hide within its shell won’t protect it from a hungry toad or rat. They could be ingested whole or even pulverized. Let’s now examine each of these snail hunters individually.
Snails are a common opportunistic food for songbirds. If the snails are tiny enough to swallow, bluebirds (Sialia sialis), thrushes (Catharus sp.), red-winged blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus), starlings (Sturnus vulgaris), and robins (Turdus migratorius) commonly consume them.
Some resourceful species, like song thrushes (Turdus merula), may consume snails that are too big to swallow by smashing the snails against rocks. You may identify these boulders, known as “thrush anvils,” by the many shell bits strewn about them.
Badgers consume snails.
Because they are molluscs, snails have soft bodies and no bones. In order to evade predators like badgers, they also create slime.
Badger families, which may number up to thirteen individuals, excavate burrows in the earth known as setts. Every spring, the female gives birth there, often to four or five young.
Because they consume both vegetation and meat, badgers are omnivores. They feed on small animals like rabbits and birds, although they mostly consume insects, earthworms, fruits, and vegetables. A relatively minor portion of their diet consists of snails.
Insects without wings known as beetles eat plants, ants, fruits, snails, and slugs. In close proximity to their meal, adult beetles deposit their eggs. Most of the hunting is done by the beetle larvae, which burrow beneath logs and other vegetation to find snails.
Beetles utilize their lengthy mouthparts to get inside and consume the flesh from snails, despite the fact that slugs are an easier meal because they lack shells. They also threaten snails that are hibernating. The larva may settle within the shell while consuming the snail by boring into it with its teeth and saliva. Particularly ground beetles are well known for consuming snails.
Snails are harmed by blackbirds. Examples include the blackbird, redwinged blackbird, and song thrush, which have all been seen to consume or feed on mollusks that live on land, particularly slugs.
They break apart snail shells with their powerful beaks before removing the delicate body.
The birds frequently use their beaks to prod the ground in search of snails hidden behind leaves or in the dirt.
Snails are easily swallowed by larger birds, and they do so regularly. Snails are consumed by blue jays (Cyanocitta cristata), ravens (Corvus sp.), magpies (Pica sp.), and other corvids. As they come upon them, owls and hawks will also devour huge snails.
Great blue herons (Ardea herodias) and green herons (Butorides virescins) are two species of waterbirds that frequently hunt snails in the shallows and shorelines of marshes and wetlands. Furthermore, ducks enthusiastically eat snails, especially mallards (Anas platyrhyncos), wood ducks (Aix sponsa), and ruddy ducks (Oxyura jamaicensis).
Among the creatures that consume snails are blindworms. These creatures can get a lot of protein and minerals from snails.
Particularly blindworms devour enormous numbers of snails, which helps manage snail populations.
These creatures contribute to the balance of their habitats by devouring snails.
Due to their rapid metabolism, shrews must consume food as frequently as possible. They have access to a variety of bugs and insects since they are able to hunt underground. Additionally, they have lengthy snouts with teeth that are sharp enough to break food apart.
Shrews frequently consume slimy animals like worms, slugs, and snails. They use their senses of touch and scent to find their prey. They regularly rise to the surface in pursuit of any bug, even tiny mice and careless snails.
The box turtle is an animal that lives on land and mostly consumes snails and other tiny invertebrates.
They may live for up to 100 years and have a thick shell that helps keep predators away. Eastern United States and southeast Canada are home to box turtles.
Snail hunting is a specialty for several birds. One notable instance is the snail kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis), which eats apple snails (Pomacea sp.) nearly entirely. Snail kites hunt for food over shallow water in tropical swamps and marshes that extend from South America to Central America and into sections of Florida.
Snail kites swoop down and snag snails with their talons while flying at up to 100 feet in the air. Their long, narrow, hooked beaks allow them to extricate the meaty mollusks.
Centipedes are predators that depend on eating other creatures to stay alive. They move exceedingly quickly by employing one set of legs for each section of their long, segmented bodies, which may be up to 12 inches long on average.
Strong fangs on the skull inject poison into the body of the victim, causing paralysis and death within minutes (because their digestive systems are very acidic).
Although they typically prey on insects, centipedes have also been observed consuming earthworms, lizards, and other small animals.
Fish of all kinds frequently feast on sea snails. The Yoyo Loach is skilled in excavating sand from the ocean’s bottom. When they catch snails, they chew the flesh before sucking it out of the shell. Additionally, the Clown Loach is known for enjoying snails. In their tunnels, they like going on snail hunts. Snail predators also include goldfish.
Typically, they seek after tiny to medium-sized snails that may be caught in their jaws. Betta fish avoid adult snails because of their size, like other fish do. Smaller snails are easier prey since they can easily sucke out their meat. Gourami fish can rip snails out of their shells because to their powerful teeth.
For instance, crows are excellent at identifying snails. In actuality, they can detect them up to 40 feet away.
The Bananaquit is a bird found in tropical rainforests that enjoys eating land snails in addition to insects and fruit.
They often hunt for food by picking through leaf debris on the forest floor.
Some snakes have adapted snails to their diet, which is a bit odd. Worldwide, tropical woods, especially those in Southeast Asia and South America, are home to snakes that feed on snails. The diversity of snail-eating snakes is correlated with the abundance of slugs and snails in tropical regions.
In tropical rainforests, snails are abundant and can be seen creeping on the ground or hidden beneath bushes and logs. Snakes that can eat snails can move their jaws much more easily in order to remove the snail from its shell and consume it.
Although they are arachnids, harvestmen are not real spiders. They resemble spiders in that they have eight legs, but their bodies differ. Harvestmen mostly consume insects and snails.
An insect known as a hornfly feeds on the blood of horses, cattle, and other animals. They are drawn to the moist regions near the lips and eyes.
Insecticides can be used to control hornflies, however certain animals can also consume them. Some lizards, frogs, and toads also consume hornflies, including swallows and blackbirds.
Birds eat snails, both farmed and wild. This is so that birds may get the calcium they need for their diet from snails. Additionally, birds need enough calcium to create healthy eggs for reproduction. Thus, eating snails is a common practice among thrushes, crows, hawks, and owls. Additionally, herons and ducks like to eat any snails they come across.
Snail kites, on the other hand, are expert snail hunters because apple snails make up the majority of their food. Most birds avoid swallowing snails that are too large for them. So, whereas larger birds like owls and hawks can feast on huge snails, little birds depend on smaller snails. Particularly cunning song thrushes may crush large snails on rocks so they can devour them.
One of the species that consumes snails is the mouse. They can eat snails because they have teeth that are sharp enough to puncture their shells.
If there is no other food available, mice will also eat the snail’s shell in addition to its flesh.
Mice may get crucial elements like calcium and phosphorus from snail shells. Generally speaking, mice who eat snail shells are healthier than mice that do not.
The mice are also protected from predators by snail shells.
On land and in the water, crabs are opportunistic predators who feed on snails. A snail serves both a housing and a food source for the majority of crabs. To live within their shell, some crabs would murder snails. They also enjoy eating clams, snails, and other mollusks in big quantities.
Marine crabs spend their time at the ocean’s bottom, just like sea snails do. As a result, they frequently hunt on snails, which fulfills their need for protein in their diet.
They are ideally suited to devouring slugs, snails, and even other newts because to their lengthy, slippery bodies and flattened heads.
They spend the day hunting in the water, although they typically reside on land in wet forests close to ponds or rivers. Their backs’ smooth skin makes it easier for them to swim through the water.
Their skin secretes a slimy substance that helps them climb up walls and cling to rocks on land to prevent falls into the ocean.
Rats typically scrounge for food. They can consume nearly any food, including plants, insects, and snails. Even deceased animals can be eaten by hungry rats. Particularly vulnerable to being eaten by mice and rats are garden snails.
Rats typically prefer to reside near to their food supply. For instance, roof rats frequently nest and reside in locations with a plentiful supply of snails. They may consume the shells when they are cracked open by their teeth.
A little grayish-white mammal native to North America, the opossum is. Opossums are omnivores and consume a broad range of foods, including snails, fruits, vegetables, insects, and carrion.
According to one research, opossums eat 23 snails on average per day. Although it might not seem like much, over time, it can add up.
Opossums play a significant role in the environment and aid in controlling snail numbers.
In snails, cannibalism is common. In actuality, smaller creatures, including other snails, are a favorite food of carnivorous sea snails like cone and moon snails. Cone snails inject their poison into their intended prey, which is often a smaller snail.
Typically, moon snails hide themselves in the sand and pounce on any nearby smaller snails. The tasty flesh is then extracted by drilling a hole in the snail with their snout.
Roman snails are renowned for their toughness due to their ability to endure extremely low temperatures. Roman snails have brown shells, and their bodies can be any shade of dark purple, pink, or blue with white markings all around.
Toads are scavengers with voracious appetites. When hungry, they can eat any nearby live creature, including frogs, newts, ants, slugs, and snails. Snails are incapable of coping with a toad’s or even a frog’s rapid tongue due to their inherent slowness.
Toads consume snails whole, passing the shell out after the snail has been broken down by their digestive system. Normally, toads will only go for snails that are the same size as them, never the adults’ size.
Salamanders are creatures that resemble lizards but do not have scales. Due to their largely carnivorous diet, they must hunt for meat. The majority of the time, they feed on smaller insects, certain fish, and other salamanders.
However, they like slugs and snails because of their sluggish rate of life. To remove tiny snails from their shells, they mostly use their teeth. Depending on whether they can match their size, some of them are aquatic and feed on sea snails.