Gastropoda – Snails & slugs

One of the most diverse group of organisms and is home to over 90,000 species

Most gastropods are recognized by their single, coiled shells that provide protection and a sense of home. These shells come in various shapes and sizes, reflecting the incredible diversity within the Gastropoda class. However, not all gastropods carry shells; slugs, a subgroup of gastropods, have evolved to thrive without external protection, featuring streamlined bodies suitable for their habitat in moist environments.

What sets gastropods apart is their remarkable feeding organ known as the radula. This unique structure resembles a ribbon adorned with tiny chitinous teeth that gastropods employ to scrape, cut, or drill into their food sources. The radula’s adaptability enables gastropods to consume a wide range of foods, showcasing their versatility as consumers. Their diets are as diverse as their appearances, with some being herbivores, nourishing themselves on plants and algae, while others adopt carnivorous habits, preying on small invertebrates. Additionally, certain gastropods serve as detritivores, vital for ecosystem nutrient cycling, as they feed on decaying organic matter.

Beyond their dietary roles, gastropods are crucial indicators of environmental health. Their presence and behavior can offer insights into factors like water quality and pollution levels. Scientists can gain valuable information about aquatic ecosystems by studying gastropod populations and observing their shell growth patterns, contributing to our understanding of environmental conditions and conservation efforts.