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Is A Slug Just A Snail Without A Shell?

garden snail climbing on a stump
eAlisa/Shutterstock

It’s easy to think that a slug is just a snail without a shell; they look alike, aside from the transportable housing.  However, they are not the same thing, even though they’re from the same family!

Slugs And Snails—Cousins of the Gastropod Family

Slugs and snails are both gastropods, which means stomach foot in Greek. They both slide around on their stomachs and eat, so it’s a fitting name. While they both move around the same, they are two very different creatures, aside from the shell. Both have different behaviors and live in different habitats. One other similarity, though, is that snails and slugs are the only animals in the gastropod family that can live on land (although some of them do live in water).

There are other similarities between these two critters, aside from being of the same family. Both slugs and snails prefer to roam around in the nighttime, probably because it’s cooler out, and there’s no sun to dry them out. They both prefer damp areas. Otherwise, there is a possibility of drying out. While both of them have a slimy outer body, covered in mucous to keep them moist, they can still dry out. The mucous is also a protective film that prevents them from getting cut when they’re slinking around the ground.

Another mutually shared benefit of the mucous covered bodies of snails and slugs is the ability to climb up houses, trees, and other places these land gastropods may want to climb. Their sliminess also turns off preditors.

The Purpose Of A Snail’s Shell

Everything that makes snails and slugs different could be blamed on the slug’s lack of a shell. The slug acts differently than it’s snail cousin because it doesn’t have a home attached to its back.

A snail’s shell offers them an instant home. The shell both provides them protection and makes it so they can’t go as many places as the slug can. Slugs may not have that calcium carbonate shell to protect their bodies and internal organs like a snail, but they can easily tuck themselves into all sorts of areas, even those too tight for a snail’s shell to get into. When you flip a stone or a log on the ground, you’ll likely find a slug or two, but you won’t find a snail. The shelled critter may hang out on the upper side of the stone or log, but the shell keeps them from getting underneath into that glorious dampness.

A Few Other Interesting Snail Facts

Snails and slugs are loved and hated by many for different reasons. Here are sun fun and interesting facts about these gastropods that you might not know.

Snails And Slugs Are A Delicacy

In many places around the world, including France, people dine on snails and slugs. The French love their escargot, which is made from a specific land snail.

Why do people eat snails and slugs? Well, maybe they think it tastes food. But, also, both are rich in protein and make a great alternative in areas where meat may be more scare to come by.

Snails Are Inspiring

Calling a slimy little shelled creature an inspiration may seem strange, but they’ve inspired people to call the mail they get through the postal service “snail mail.” Because mail sometimes seems to take forever to get to your home, we think of it as moving at a snail’s pace.

Speaking of a “snail’s pace,” if someone in your life is moving slow or taking forever to get ready to go out, you might feel like they’re creeping along as slow as a snail. The thing is, while different types of snails can move at different speeds, on average, they move just under an inch a minute. An average snail can travel about 82 feet in 24 hours.

They’re Also Hated By Some

Inspiring or not, some people dislike snails and slugs, and for a good reason. These pesky critters are known to destroy gardens by eating up the plant life. They don’t just chow down on leaves; they can get right down in the dirt and damage the roots of plants.

Gardeners often put out chemicals, and DIY treatments that will either kill snails and slugs by causing them to dry out (salt will do this) or that will keep them away from the plants.

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow has been a professional writer for almost two decades. Yvonne has worked for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and much more as a writer and editor. She's also a published poet and a short story writer. Read Full Bio »