Snails are invertebrates considered to belong in the lower rank of the animal food chain. Small and sluggish, snails easily fall prey to a slew of different predators. Because they are rich in protein and nutrition, more advanced animals prefer snails as a source of food.
There are several predators of snails across different countries and habitats. It is worth understanding these predators and why snails are commonly found vulnerable to their insatiable hungers.
List of Predators of Snails
Beetles comprise a group of insects under the order Coleoptera. Beetles stand out from other insects due to a unique anatomical structure, the elytra. These are wings that are toughened to become wing-cases. Among the different types of beetles, the Ground Beetles stand out as being primarily carnivorous and are the primary predator of snails.
Ground beetles have well developed pygidial glands containing acidic secretions. These secretions are directly harmful to the slug and can be used to create a small opening over the snail’s shell to access the interior body. If caught off guard, the snails are also vulnerable to a direct attack through the large opening of the shell.
The shrew is a mammalian vertebrate under the order Eulipotyphla. These are mole-like mammals characterized to have poor vision due to their small eyes. This is offset, however, by an exceptional sense of smell and hearing. They stand out as being one of the few land-dwelling mammals capable of echolocation.
Shrews also posses sharp spiky teeth with grooves containing venom. Its venom contains several compounds that, once delivered to its prey via the grooves of its teeth, causes a form of paralysis. This gives the shrew enough time to consume its prey.
With such specialized characteristics, shrews are particularly dangerous to the snails. Using their speed and venomous teeth, the shrew is more than capable of overcoming the snail. If they are unable to get the advantage early, this predator of snails are strong enough to break the snail’s shell and insert their snout into the shell to pull out the body.
Turtles are reptiles belonging to the order Testudines. They are well known for their shell-exterior and defensive nature. However, turtles serve as frequent members of the ecology and as such, act as predators for more vulnerable prey. Younger turtles are purely carnivorous, making snails a common part of their diet.
With its powerful jaws, turtles are capable of overcoming the snail’s defenses. Smaller turtles can directly eat a snail through its shell openings while larger turtles can blatantly break open the shells.
Another primary predators of snails are salamanders, which are amphibians that look like lizards but are differentiated by their smooth moist skin and the absence of scales. They reproduce by laying eggs without shells in moist environments. They have specialized eyes with night vision and trichromatic color vision which helps them identify and catch their prey.
Salamanders are predators with a “take what you can get” attitude. They will eat almost any prey that they can physically overcome. Whether it is on land or in the water, salamanders are well-adapted to a variety of environments to catch unsuspecting prey like the snail.
Most land-dwelling salamanders have a sticky tongue which they throw out to catch unsuspecting prey. This action happens so fast a snail is usually defenseless to escape it. Aquatic salamanders, on the other hand, usually lack a sticky tongue but instead have powerful jaws meant to subdue and tear its prey.
5. Song Thrushes
Song thrushes are a type of birds belonging to the order Passeriformes. Seen mostly in southern Europe, song thrushes earned their name from their very distinct bird calls creating repeated musical notes. These songs are often the subject matter of poetry.
Though song thrushes are omnivorous, they prefer mostly invertebrates in their diet. This makes land snails prime nutritious food sources, apart from earthworms and various soft fruits.
A song thrush can be frequently seen throwing around snails in an attempt to break the shells. Once the shells are broken, the bird can extract the body of the snail and eat it. Otherwise, the thrush is still able to reach into the shell’s opening using its narrow beaks.
A species of snail called the grove snail, are regular prey of the song thrush. In an evolutionary response to frequently being prey to these birds, their shells have started to display confusion shell patterns to throw off would-be predators.
6. Wild Turkey
A wild turkey is a ground bird that belongs to the order Galliformes. They are commonly found in forests rich in pine trees that are common in the northeastern region of North America.
These birds are omnivorous and eat a variety of food from nuts and berries to amphibians and snails. They are diligent foragers meaning they can find food in areas other animals are not as motivated to search.
Wild turkeys eat snail whole, meaning they are swallowed along with their shells. Snails are defenseless against this predator of snails and can only rely on its ability to hide and camouflage itself to escape certain death. With its highly-textured shells, most snails are brown-colored and are not easily visible to predators that hunt using sight.
We end our list of predators of snails with the weka. The weka is a small flightless bird belonging to the order Gruiformes. These birds are almost exclusively native to New Zealand. Their habitat can vary between grassland, rocky shores or even urban environments. They are curious types of birds and are frequently led to houses or camps in search of food or unfamiliar things.
Weka are omnivores and can feed on invertebrates such as the snail or plant foods such as berries or seeds. The majority of their diet is comprised of plant foods.
Wekas are formidable predators for the unsuspecting snail. With its long and conical beak, it frequently uses this as a weapon to ram the snail’s shell. Using its strong legs, a weka can hold down a snail and furiously use its beak to eat the snail from out of the shell’s opening.
I hope that this article on predators of snails was helpful. If you are interested, visit the Animal Facts Page!