Gastropoda – Snails & slugs
One of the most diverse group of organisms and is home to over 90,000 species
Most gastropods are characterized by their univalve shells, which are often coiled. These shells serve as protective homes, providing shelter and defense against predators. The shape and size of the shell can vary widely among different species. While snails carry shells, slugs, another group within Gastropoda, lack external shells. Instead, they have evolved streamlined bodies adapted to a life without the protective encasement. Slugs are often found in damp environments.
Gastropods possess a unique feeding organ called a radula. The radula is a ribbon-like structure with rows of tiny, chitinous teeth that gastropods use to scrape, cut, or drill into food sources. It is a versatile tool that allows them to consume various foods. Their diet is incredibly diverse. While some are herbivores, feeding on plants and algae, others are carnivores, preying on small invertebrates. Some detritivores consume decaying organic matter.