Garden snail

Q: A question from my son, Jonathan:

Are snails born with their shells, or do they 'develop' once born?

Are the shells initially soft - and how do they grow once they are hard? Regards, JV

A: Hello Jonathan,

Thank you for your interesting questions. Well, you know, snails are fantastic creatures and I am delighted that you are interested in them!

There are many different types of snails in Britain. Probably the one you are most familiar with is the large brown one you see in your garden - it is the garden snail! They lay their small white eggs in a clump just under the surface of the soil in the late spring or summer. After a few weeks, the eggs hatch and the tiny baby snails emerge - already with their shells!

At this stage, their shells are colourless, soft and delicate. The baby snail eats the egg from which it hatched because the egg contains calcium which helps its shell to harden.

Over the coming months, as the snail grows, the shell will grow with it. Part of the snail's body, called the mantle, makes new soft shell material and this is added to the edge of the shell - this soft edge is called the lip. The lip of the shell takes time to harden after being formed. As the snail and its shell grows, the number of spiral whorls increases.

Have you counted how many whorls a fully grown garden snail has got?

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