Ecology and Habitats

Although all levels of the ocean are inhabited by snails, they are in greatest abundance in and just below the tidal zones, where the most abundant quantities of food may be found. The extent of their effect on a coastline is indicated by the estimate that an average population of 860 million Litteria (periwinkles) on one square mile of rocky shore ingests 2,200 tons of material each year, only about 55 tons of which is organic matter. Limpets of all types are even more influential in such habitats, browsing and grazing on the algae and sessile animals. One interesting characteristic of limpets is that of homing. Numerous species have the tendency to settle on one spot and to feed on regular pathways radiating from this home base, to which they return for rest or under stressful conditions.


The foot is the organ of locomotion in land gastropods. In swimming and sessile forms, however, the foot is greatly modified. The normal movement of a snail is by muscular action, with a series of contraction waves proceeding from the posterior to the anterior end of the gliding portion of the foot. A few groups have the foot divided into right and left halves, with separate waves moving on each side. When the foot is narrow, as in Strombus and Aporrhais, the animal moves in fits and starts, tumbling along by a digging action of the foot and the pointed operculum. Certain small gastropod species move by the beating action of cilia of the foot on the mucous sheet secreted by the anterior part of the foot. Most prosobranchs are slow-moving, with a speed of less about three inches per minute, although Haliotis has been reported to move at almost 10 times that rate