The world’s slowest hunters

by David P
Publish date
18 April 2011
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We have many different types of snail here at Melbourne Museum. They range from the very well-known Common Garden Snail (Cantareus aspersa), which was introduced into Australia from Europe in the early 1800s, to Australia’s largest snail, the Giant Panda Snail (Hedleyella falconeri), from the forests around the border of New South Wales and Queensland. There are many differences between the snails in our collection but one trait that they generally share is what they eat. Most snails are herbivorous and feed on plant matter or fungi – much to the frustration of many gardeners. However, some snails have different eating habits and they are in fact carnivorous. We have one such predatory creature here.

Carnivorous snail Carnivorous snail feeding on a Common Garden Snail.
Image: David Paddock
Source: Museum Victoria

Now, a snail is not exactly known for its speed, but these snails actually chase down and eat other animals, feeding on worms and other molluscs, including snails. While what they eat is different, the way that they eat is exactly the same. Snails have a radula – a tongue-like structure covered by rows of rasping teeth. To see the feeding structure (mouth) of a snail, place it on a clear glass sheet and watch from below.

Carnivorous snail Carnivorous snail eating a Common Garden Snail.
Image: David Paddock
Source: Museum Victoria

These pictures were taken here at Melbourne Museum in our back-of-house animal care facility. The smaller carnivorous snail (Terrycarlessia tubinata) is eating a Common Garden Snail. A few days later all that was left of the victim was an empty shell!

If you are interested in snails and would like to see some of Australia's biggest species, come along to Melbourne Museum and see our Rainforest Snails and Giant Panda Snails on display now in Bugs Alive.


Infosheet: Land snails of Victoria

MV Blog: Snail of a surprise

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