Snail Consumes Worm With Incredible Efficiency

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A couple weeks ago, we showed you a photo series from Ukrainian photographer Vyacheslav Mishchenko in which he explores the secret lives of snails. Snails seem like an underdog in the animal kingdom because they are incredibly slow, slimy, vulnerable little mollusks who eat fruits. Many snail species are herbivores who fit the bill of being totally adorable, but not all of them.

Powelliphanta is a genus of carnivorous land snails, who are also known as amber snails. They can grow to be 91 mm (3.6 in) long, about the size of a fist. Earthworms are a staple of amber snail’s diets though it doesn’t seem like it should be much of a match-up. Worms are really slippery and wiggly and snails are pretty slow, right? So how do the snails capture their prey? 

Well, despite what you might expect, the snails have lightning-fast reflexes and slurps the worms up like a spaghetti noodle in the blink of an eye. The snails use a radula to break down their prey. This is a ribbon-like feature made out of chitin with serrated edges that sort of look like very tiny teeth. This rough edge slowly scrapes the worm apart as the bits of flesh get swallowed. If you have ever wanted to feel terrible for a worm, now is probably the time.

It’s slightly horrifying, but it’s also really hard to look away. Check it out:

[Hat tip: Steve McKiernan, Free Beer & Hot Wings]

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