Aquarium Snails

Do Aquarium Snails Have Teeth?

Snail’s teeth are considered as the world’s most rigid material and help the snails to do the toughest of jobs like scraping algae from rocks for eating.

Do Aquarium Snails Have Teeth? Yes, Snails have the highest number of teeth, approximately 1000-30000 of all living organisms. They have a long tongue-like structure called Radula in their mouth made up of tissues that contain 100-120 teeth rows and varies according to the species. It has thousands of tiny teeth all over it arranged in long rows along its length. 

Do Aquarium Snails Have Teeth?

Aquarium snails are considered excellent scavengers as they can eat almost anything like plant leaves in the tank, dead organic matter, waste food, and algae on rocks and driftwood. They need an efficient and durable set of teeth to perform these functions. 

Nature has equipped them with thousands of tiny teeth in their mouth mounted on a flexible structure capable of moving out of a snail’s mouth. It is the reason behind the diversity in their diet and munching capability on plant leaves and algae. 

Physical Description of Snail’s Teeth

Snails teeth are light brownish colored microstructures present on a flexible structure called Radula. They are tiny in size, like needles, and visible when observing them under an electron microscope.

They have slender shapes. Top edges of teeth, especially lateral sides, strike the tank substrate and rocks when they put their Radula out of their mouth to capture food. Therefore, they should be strong enough to withstand that force. 

These conical teeth can vary in size according to their age, their position on Radula, and the Snail’s species. They have typical lengths in the range of 0.2-1.0 µm and widths ranging from 15-20nm.

These small sizes cannot be visible with the naked eye, even with a compound microscope. Images of Snail’s teeth available online or in books are taken using electron microscopes.  

Composition of Snail Teeth

Snails eat using their teeth and jaw present on the roof of their mouth. Radula collects the food using teeth and then brings the food inside the mouth to grind it between the teeth and a single jaw on the roof of the Snail’s mouth. 

During this eating process, these micro teeth bear a lot of stress and force. Therefore they should be made of strong materials to remain firm in these situations. 

They are made up of an iron-containing crystalline material known as Goethite. These teeth are rooted in a fibrous matrix aligned along the axis of these teeth. This fibrous material is known as Chitin, and it mostly consists of polysaccharides.

There are also trash amounts of Silica present in the structure of these needle-like structures. Snail teeth can grasp the food tightly and point inward. Each row contains almost 33 numbers of teeth. These are smart, sharp, and sensitive in appearance.

Snail teeth strength

Initially, spider silk was considered the most robust material on earth. But in recent research, it has been revealed that the new record holder is Snail’s teeth. They are about 2-5 times stronger than spider silk.

The reason behind the most robust material is carbon nanofibers in the chitin structure. Goethite is a rigid material, and it can break when exposed to higher stresses. The presence of Chitin makes it tough and unbreakable to Gigapascals of pressure.

Materials in Snail’s teeth can maintain their properties if artificially prepared at a large scale. Therefore, researchers are working on it to mimic these materials in the laboratory to create this toughest and strongest material. They have applications in the high tech industry, including racing cars, air crafts, etc.

Number of Teeth in Snails

The number of teeth for freshwater snails varies from species to species. It also depends on the age of snails. Whatever the case, they have the most number of teeth on their tongue that help them chop their food in a circular pattern as food passes over them.

Their number varies from 1000 to 30000 depending upon their species. They are not like other animals’ regular teeth on their jaws, but micro needles like crystalline structures firmly rooted on their tongue.

Eating Mechanism

The eating process of aquarium snails consists of a flexible tongue called Radula, which is studded with thousands of teeth and looks like a foil-like structure. The second organ for eating is a single jaw on the top of their buccal cavity.

Radula comes out of the mouth to collect and scrape food materials from tank substrate, rocks, and plants in the tank. It brings them into its mouth and chops them in a circular saw-like pattern as food passes over them.

The upper jaw helps to grind the food items into fine particles along with its most robust teeth. You can hear the sounds of their munching, chopping, tearing, and grinding the food items in your aquarium if you pay close attention while they are eating.

As food passes through the esophagus, digestive enzymes and hormones are released to complete the digestion.

Functions of Teeth in Snails

Snails teeth perform multiple functions and are essential for diversity in their diets. Owing to their teeth, snails can eat almost everything on this planet, from leaves to dead organic matter.

Their work starts when Radula comes out of their mouth to collect food. Their inward-pointing shapes help them to grasp food items. Their workload increases when they have to gather food like algae from rough and hard surfaces like rocks. 

After that, they bring the food in their mouth and assist a single jaw in the Snail’s mouth to grind the food items.

They also help snails grasp and keep hold of their prey like insects or other bacterial growth in the tank.

Do Snails Regrow their Teeth?

Yes, snail teeth continuously fall out and regrow. As fast as they get dull and wear out, they fall and are replaced by new ones.

This process starts from the front row and keeps repeating until the whole batch of teeth is replaced with new ones in 04-06 weeks.

This phenomenon keeps their teeth clean and robust without disturbing their scavenging nature. It is a result of evolutionary processes according to their eating habits.

Despite being tiny sizes, Snails’ teeth compete with those of sharks in numbers and their regrowth.

Can Snail Bite Humans?

If you hold your aquarium snails in hand, there are chances it can bite on your finger. Although there are thousands of teeth on Snails’ Radula, they don’t have enough force to cause any harm to human beings.

You may not even feel their bite as a lack of strength in it. They do it instinctively, just in search of food and not intentionally. Another reason can be their blurred vision.

Moreover, their bite is not poisonous like some of the wild animals like snakes. Whatever the case may be, you don’t need to worry about a snail’s bite as it does not harm you. In the wild, they can harm you.

Conclusion

Aquarium Snails have the strongest and largest number of teeth of all living organisms. They enable them to scavenge on any food items like plant leaves, algae, and other organic matter.

Due to their enormous toughness, scientists are working to synthetically prepare Snails’ teeth material to use in high-tech products. 

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