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Roman Snail

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Roman snail - Helix pomatia

Roman snail (Helix pomatia)

Photo © Elisa Locci / Shutterstock.
The Roman snail (Helix pomatia), also known as the Burgundy snail, is a species of terrestrial snail that is widespread throughout central and eastern Europe. The Roman snail is edible and, in France, the species is better known as "escargot".

Roman snails are large snails. Full grown Roman snails have a shell that measures between 4 and 5 centimeters in both height and diameter. Their shell is light brown and has several brown bands that run length-wise along the coil of its shell (the bands are more easily seen in this photo). The shape of the Roman snail's shell is either round or slightly conical. It winds around a central axis to form five or six whorls that end in a large aperature (shell opening).

Roman snails live in a variety of habitats including forests, grasslands, vineyards, hedges, gardens, shrublands, and wetlands. They prefer low-lying areas where chalk and limestone comprise the dominant bedrock. The species is found in areas that range from sea level up to as high as 1830 meters in altitude. Roman snails thrive best in humid climates and mild temperatures. The species is intolerant of heavy rains or intense sunlight.

Like many species of pulmonates, Roman snails are hermaphroditic (both partners in a mating pair can act as female or male). Roman snails reproduce during June and July. They lay between 40 and 60 eggs in loose soil and the young snails hatch after about four weeks and mature between two and five years. Roman snails are long-lived gastropods, their lifespan can be as much as 20 years or more.

Roman snails in general (and young Roman snails in particular) are prey for a variety of animals such as birds, insects, frogs and small mammals. The slime Roman snails secrete is their only protection and can serve as a deterent to predators (even though it is not poisonous).

Roman snails feed during the early evening and night. They tear and grind their food with their radula, a feeding structure unique to molluscs that is covered with many tiny chitinous teeth. They eat leaves, flowers, fruit and vegetables (for this reason, Roman snails are often considered garden pests).

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