If you've ever looked in a garden, or even on the sidewalk after it has rained, you've probably seen a snail or slug at least once. Well guess what Defenders - did you know snails and slugs aren't insects? That's right, they're gastropods!
So what exactly is a gastropod you might ask? Well they are in the phylum of Mollusks, so they share some similarities with other mollusks like cephalopods.
- They have a mantle, radula, and structure of a nervous system
- They are invertebrates
Gastropods have a very large number of individual species. In fact, they are only second to insects in the overall number of species. It is estimated there are 240,000 different species, including some that haven't been described yet. Differing from some other mollusks, gastropods also have a very diverse selection of habitats. Some live in freshwater while others live in the sea, and many are terrestrial, living across many different habitats on land. Some examples of Gastropods include:
- Sea Snails
- Land snails
- Freshwater snails
Gastropods usually have 2 to 4 tentacles attached to their head, as well as eyes, and a ventral foot. Shelled gastropods usually have a one piece shell that will often open on the right hand side. Some sea snails and slugs also have a very bright coloration. Like most unique coloration, this will serve as a warning for their poison or stinging cells. The diet of gastropods can differ as vastly as there are unique species - some are herbivores, some are predatory carnivores, while others can be scavengers, or even parasites. Gastropods have various predators that include rodents and other small mammals, amphibians, and reptiles, as well as the occasional bird.