Everything about Burgundy snails (Helix pomatia)

The Burgundy snail (Helix pomatia) – is one of the largest land snails, seen on the territory of Europe. It is brought to and acclimatized in South America. Its natural habitat is rather wide these are – valleys and mountains, foliage forests, parks and ravines, meadows and valleys, vineyards with soil consisting pH alkaline.

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Look and life-style

The body of this gastropod is asymmetrical, head and wide flat foot are clearly seen. An average weight – is about 1.05 oz (30 g) (there may be found specimens up to 1.59 oz (45 g)). There are eyes and tentacles on the head, which are organs of taste and smell. Spirally curved shell of Burgundy snail is made of 4-5 turns; it’s usually self colored, of orange-yellowish color with longitudinal wide brownish stripes. The coloring may vary from bright striped to completely self colored. If the snail lives in droughty region, its shell will be brighter and harder; in wet habitat – darker and comparatively soft. The width of the shell is usually around 5 cm the height is 4-4.5 cm. The shell protects gentle body of the mollusc from enemies and sudden damages and stands pressure up to 28.66 lb (13 kg). In ancient times shells of snails in form of ideal spiral were regarded as example of beauty and harmony. If you look at snail’s shell from pointed end, almost all specimens will have it curved to the right, clockwise. But you can also find left-hander snails with left curved shells. As it might be with gastropods, Burgundy snails slide on the surface with their muscular foot, covered with slime. Muscle contractions, passing along its foot in waves, transfer the mollusc in direction wanted. The maximum speed on which the snail moves is 7 cm in a minute. But usually they have nowhere to hurry so much, and they slowly eat around nearby leaves.

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The slime that flows out by snails reduces frictions and makes easier movement of moluscs on uneven surface. The slime also performs regenerating function – in case of damage of foot or shell slime components (allantoin, collagen, elastin, glycolic acid, chitosan, vitamins etc.) help the fastest healing of defect. It’s not by chance that snail’s slime has lately been under close attention of cosmetologists – creams, serums, masks, that contain snail’s slime have well-seen rejuvenating and regenerating of the skin properties, allow to remove scars, acne marks, stretch marks, age spots. The recipe of effective rejuvenating mask from snail’s slime, which any one can prepare at home, you may see here  http://wikitalks.com/2013/09/mask-snail-mucus/

Earlier biologists thought that slime running out from moluscs simply dries up on its foot. But modern research has shown that mucifying occurs in furrow of mucosal gland located near the rasping tongue, where opens the skin gland duct producing the slime. Than it is spread all around the foot, but at the end of snail’s foot the slime is absorbed again through special opening. The slime track constantly turns round as a bogie track, passing from the outside along snail’s foot and then from the back end to the head inside the body. Thus, molluscs considerably save waste of liquid. At sunny weather when the snail creeps along dry surface, it has almost no slime track left. And while raining, when moisture replenishment of the body is not a problem, the snail leaves a wide slime track behind.

Snails have grounded life-style, breath with their lungs.

Life span of these moluscs in their natural habitat rarely reaches 6-8 years, as they have a lot of natural enemies. Mice, hedgehogs, predatory insects, frogs and toads, lizards, birds, skunks with great pleasure include Burgundy snails into their menus. Human also doesn’t refuse to vary his/her diet with snail’s meat. You may read the easiest step-by-step recipe with photos of cooking the tastiest delicacy of Burgundy snails here  http://wikitalks.com/2013/12/burgundy-snails-delicacy/

Nourishment

Burgundy snails – are herbivores as they eat large leaf herbs (plantain, horse sorrel, burdock, dandelion, nettle, cabbage, wild strawberries, clover etc., all in all about 30 different kinds of cultivated and wild plants) and also soil and fallen fruits( as well as rotting ones).

Behaviour

Snails are very moisture-loving creatures. In dry, sunny weather they hide under stones, in a wet moss, in plants shadow. If there is lack of moisture snails become slack, immobile, and as time goes by they grow numb completely. Before that they hide into shells, sticking the hole of the shell together with a transparent thin air-penetrating film, containing calcium, which becomes hard and reliably locks the snail inside the house, preventing valuable moisture evaporation.

But as soon as there was raining, the snail wakes up, releases from its “little door” and actively creeps out to look for food.

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More often snails stay hidden in shells during the day and when night and coolness come go in search of feeding. Especially active these moluscs are after heavy rains.

Active life period of Burgundy snails is about 5 months on average. All summer they provide themselves with nutrients, and by temperature fall to 18-12◦C they go away for winter sleep, digging for about 5-10 cm into soil. In cold areas they may dig themselves for depth of 30-35 cm. Fallen leaves, and than snow safely protect moluscs from frost. Although, the snail closed in the shell grows numb metabolism in its body doesn’t stop, though slow down very much.

Heart activity falls to one contraction in a minute. During winter sleep the snail looses up to 10% of its weight. In spring when land is warmed to 6-8◦C, snails wake up, breath air in lungs, shed covers from shell and leave their winter shelters. Hungry and active they go in search of food. Hunger satisfied, they start looking for partners for reproduction.

Reproduction

Pairing of snails occurs in early spring after awakening from sleep. Sometimes we may observe the second peak of sexual activity of these molluscs – in the beginning of autumn. Countless observations on snails allow describing their behavior when looking for partners and the process of fertilization itself in details. Scientists didn’t pay so much attention to these molluscs in vain as the fact is that these snails are – a hermaphrodite that is one specimen is both male and female. You can at once determine whether the snail is or not in search of its partner – it creeps often stopping and raising the front part of its body, as if looking out for someone. If it is lucky it will meet the other snail and they start “love game” preceding fertilization. The ritual of courtship is very interesting – both snails stretch out, touch each other’s feet and feel each other with their rasping tongues and tentacles. After such original kisses the snails thrust in each other’s bodies their “love arrows” – sharp lime tubes up to 1cm in length after which there is an exchange of spermatophores. By that each snail serves both as female and male.

After fertilization snails creep in different directions. In favorable conditions “romantic dates” can occur several times a month. Even after one-time fertilization the snail may keep spermatophores during one year.

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Fertilized eggs, covered by protective shell contain supply of nutrients for development of embryo of full value. The snail digs a pit in wet ground, lays several dozens of eggs the size of 4-7 mm and covers them up after finished egg laying. To make such nest the snail has to work right along for about 20 hours.

Depending on temperature of the soil, small snails are hatched from eggs in 3-4 weeks that are small copies of adult specimens. They stay in their nest for a few days, after which they creep away in all directions and start having their own completely independent life. Under favorable conditions of natural habitat and enough amount of food, snails become sexually-active up to 2-3 years old. But not everyone is so lucky, on average only 5 % of newborn snails reach such age, the rest become preys of numerous predators.

When kept in terrariums the chances of young snails to survive grow many times. Constant presence of forage and optimal temperature of keeping allow snails to have descendants already being one-year old.

Burgundy snails and human

People have paid their attention and tried Burgundy snails long time ago. In Ancient Greece dishes from snails were rather usual, and even poorest and simplest people could eat those. For Roman legionaries in their distant campaigns snails were peculiar natural canned goods and available healthy food; monks in Middle Ages bred these molluscs at vegetable beds, so to enrich and vary poor ration during the fasting. Brought by human snails reached even Africa and the Antilles – European colonialists brought their favorite delicacies with them.

Snail’s meat is eaten by many peoples not by chance. It contains 70% of protein (which is one third more than in chicken eggs), 20% of amino acids and 10% of fats. Besides, snail’s meat has minerals and vitamins in such amount that in many countries pharmaceutical industry uses it as raw material for production of medicines. One more advantage of this meat is that – there is no cholesterol in it, so diet with snails meat is recommended for patients with obesity, liver diseases and atherosclerosis.

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Ancient Greeks knew about that long ago, and modern studies have proved that snails meat is a strong aphrodisiac, by that the enzyme, responsible for this is at the same time capable to improve both woman’s libido and man’s potency.

Particular success in cooking dishes from snail’s meat has gained well-known gourmands – the French. Variety of dishes from snails may be seen in menus of French restaurants being called escargot. Snails with garlic sauce, Burgundy snails, snail’s oil – these and also great number of recipes using snails meat have become classics of the French cuisine.

Snail’s meat is especially recommended for all lack of calcium diseases in body – for pregnant women, nursing mothers, patients with diseases of bone-cartilage tissue.

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Author: Katiss
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Comments

  1. passionfruit 13 June 2014 :

    I used to think that snail is just a dish (very tasty by the way), so it is difficult for me to understand that people keep them at home just for fun.

  2. klo 24 June 2014 :

    I can say that when you are holding a snail or just watching it, it makes you relax and calm down. Just as you are looking at the fish in the aquarium.

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