Helix Aspersa- Garden Snail

Helix Aspersa, Garden Snail
Credit: Gery Parent, Flickr

Considering the natural order of living things, it would appear that humans have an advantage over snails. We have opposable thumbs and walk upright, after all. Now, ponder this. The common snail has slimed the earth for 600 million years- and we haven't. Ranked as one of earth's earliest living organisms, that takes some mad survival skills, especially when you consider how little helix aspersa has adapted. As pests go, they're king of the hill. 

This tiny mollusk is anatomically quite imposing. They may appear to be fragile but they are actually built for the ages. Given the right set of circumstances, the slimy critter can outlive your cat. They can survive 15 years, that is if they can avoid the bottom of your shoe, evade their natural predators and resist an onslaught of chemicals in the modern garden. Don't be fooled into thinking you've won the war in the dead of winter when they've all but disappeared. You haven't won. They're actually hibernating, living off stored fat. 

Snails possess both male and female sex organs. As hermaphrodites, when they mate, they each fertilize the other's eggs. And for their next trick, snails can even fertilize themselves. 

Helix Aspersa possess thousands of sharp teeth on a thin ribbon called a radula in their soggy head. Their belly is actually a strong muscle called a foot. Wait, what?  The mucus on their foot allows them to slither over ragged rocks, hot ground and broken glass without injury. 

Snails are deathly slow creatures. It takes 32 hours for the fastest of the species to travel just one mile. Actually, that's not bad for a spineless critter with just one lung, who has a foot for a belly and carries it's house piggy-back. 

What's not to love about these loathsome creatures? Whether my new found respect for snails translates to sparing them an untimely death at the bottom of my shoe is yet to be seen.