• Question: how do snails have babies? are baby snails born with shells?

    Asked by katie12345 to Daniela, Hannah, Ian, Jono, Mark on 20 Jun 2013.
    • Photo: Ian Wilson

      Ian Wilson answered on 20 Jun 2013:

      Hi katie12345,

      Couple of really interesting questions there.

      Most snails are hermaphrodites – that is they have both boy’s and girl’s reproductive organs. In the most common species we see, these slugs still need a partner to have babies. When a pair of these slugs mate, they communicate with one another for up to 12 hours before using their male parts to fertilise the eggs carried in each other’s female reproductive organs. So both slugs in a pair give birth to baby slugs, increasing the number the pair can have.

      But not all snails do this. Some have reproductive systems more like ours in that there’s a male and a female, which must mate with one another. And others are hermaphrodites and can fertilise their own eggs – these snails are asexual and don’t need a partner. These types of snails are less common than the first type I mentioned. That’s why a lot of people will say ALL snails are hermaphrodites, but that’s wrong 😛

      Baby snails are indeed born with shells, but they’re really weak – not at all like the hardened versions their parents have. These shells are called ‘protoconches’. Just like humans need loads of calcium to make our bones strong, baby snails need to eat loads of calcium to strengthen their shells. The first thing they tend to do when they’re born is eat the egg they hatched from. Some even eat the eggs that their unborn brothers and sisters are growing in!! As they change, the shells start to show colours and they are fully formed after about 3 months.

      Hope that answers your question 🙂


    • Photo: Daniela Plana

      Daniela Plana answered on 20 Jun 2013:

      Hi katie12345!

      Snails mostly lay eggs, like fish or birds do… and they mostly do have a shell when they hatch from the egg, although it’s not exactly they one they have when they grow up… it changes as they grow.

      I take it you like snails??

    • Photo: Mark Hodson

      Mark Hodson answered on 20 Jun 2013:

      Hi Katie12345,

      I can’t really add to Ian’s answer but a cool thing about snails when they mate is that some species fire tiny darts at each other and then effectively pull in the other snail to mate with it.



    • Photo: Hannah Brotherton

      Hannah Brotherton answered on 21 Jun 2013:

      Hi katie12345,
      When snails get together, they flirt for about 12 hours……must be really good at flirting to stay awake for that long!

      After woooing each other, they both end up having babies….could you imagine that happening in humans. A man wouldn’t be able to cope :P. This is because each snail is both a boy and a girl.

      Some snails lay eggs but others have babies like we do, giving birth to live baby snails.

      Baby snails have tiny shells, but they are so weak, you can see through it.
      So the baby snail immediately starts hunting…..for calcium (hmm not that tasty). This will toughen up and strengthen their shell. If the babies were born from eggs, they will eat their own egg. If they were born like we are, they start roaming the ground looking for anything with calcium in it, like another animals eggs.

      The baby doesn’t leave the mum (or dad, because its a boy and a girl 🙂 until 2 months after they have been born. Then they are strong enough to live on their own.

      Then they start looking for their future girlfriend that’s also a boyfriend lol to start a new family