Even without visual cues, it’s often possible to identify specific animals by their distinctive sounds. A roar would unmistakably be a lion’s, a hissing sound could only be a snake’s, chirping notes belong to crickets, and the trumpeting blares are unique to elephants. But what about the unassuming snail? Does it contribute to this chorus of nature with any noise or sound of its own?
Snails make noise, although these sounds are inadvertent, such as when they retract into their shells or feed in a quiet environment. Lacking ears and vocal cords, they cannot produce vocal sounds. The sounds we associate with them stem from their physical movements, not intentional vocalization.
Throughout the ages, numerous animal phyla have developed the capability to produce sounds, facilitating communication amongst themselves or alerting others to the presence of predators. This article delves into sound production in snails to ascertain whether these mollusks can consciously generate acoustic signals.
What Distinguishes the Sounds Associated with Snails from Those of Other Animals?
Many snail enthusiasts claim to have heard their pet snails “scream” after careful observation. This curious notion piqued my interest and led me to explore an engaging discussion on The Mix community forum.
One forum participant shared an intriguing anecdote about finding a snail crawling up their kitchen door. They decided to gently detach the creature and return it to the outdoors. During this process, they were surprised to hear what sounded like a scream.
However, they couldn’t discern whether this was a genuine scream or merely an incidental sound produced as the snail was separated from the adhesive slime that facilitated its climb.
Another member chimed in, offering some clarification on the matter. They pointed out that snails, devoid of vocal cords, simply cannot produce a screaming sound. This brings about an interesting comparison to elephants, known for their ability to generate distinct sounds.
Elephants produce characteristic rumbling noises when they trample over dry leaves and twigs, and they emit a loud trumpet call when communicating with their mates. It’s a fascinating contrast to our quiet friends, the snails, whose biological makeup limits sound production capabilities.
Indeed, a snail might produce noise while munching on celery using its radula, a structure equipped with thousands of teeth. However, without vocal cords, it cannot vocalize or “call out” to its companions as elephants can.
Related Reading: Do Snails Have Teeth?
These observations offer valuable insight into the potential differences between the unintentional sounds produced by snails and the intentional, communicative sounds generated by other animals.
For the snail in the story mentioned above, the “scream” was likely an accidental byproduct of being forcefully separated from its slime rather than a deliberate act of acoustic signaling.
What Sounds Do Snails Make?
Like humans, animals continuously evolve to better adapt to their ever-changing natural environments. As scientists have noted, one of the most apparent areas of this evolution is in sound production. This evolution has enabled numerous animals to produce sounds, primarily for communication or as a response to the presence of predators.
Similarly, humans emit a scream when accidentally pricked by a sharp object, and many animals produce sounds in reaction to pain. While various animal phyla have developed advanced abilities to generate acoustic signals, this capability remains elusive in the phylum Mollusca, under which snails and slugs fall.
Two Notable Cases Supporting Sound Production in Snails
The Cantareus apertus: The Sound-Producing Snail
A noteworthy quote from a scientist named Braun in 1887 adds an intriguing twist to the common scientific understanding that snails do not produce sound. Braun documented the Cantareus apertus, commonly known as the green garden snail, identifying it as a sound-producing species.
Braun observed that the Cantareus apertus possesses notably large helices that create sound when expelling typically trapped air from its pulmonary cavity through the pneumostome. As the air exits the pulmonary cavity, this snail species produces mucus, bursting into minuscule bubbles that amplify the sound.
Braun distinguished the sound-producing snail due to the sound he heard while it rested, its shell swaying side to side. Significantly, research suggests these sounds differ from the noise typically associated with snail locomotion.
Contrary to common knowledge, snails generally do not produce sounds in response to predation. However, the Cantareus apertus appears to contradict this notion.
Braun noted that this snail species emits sounds seemingly in response to potential predation. This act can be viewed as an antipredator defensive behavior.
Further affirming this, the Cantareus apertus emits a sound when its shell is abruptly touched, a defensive mechanism supported by the substantial production of slime to deter predators.
The Snail Discovered in Araucaria Forest, Brazil
Two scientists have presented observations about snails and their potential for sound production, challenging the widely accepted scientific understanding that snails, lacking vocal cords, cannot produce sound.
G. Woehl and his colleague claimed they fortuitously encountered a sound-producing snail and managed to record its noise. They were amidst a research project searching for amphibians when they spotted the snail resting on a leaf in the Araucaria Forest in Brazil.
Upon closer inspection, the scientists noted that the resting snail appeared to have endured a predator attack before their arrival. They observed the snail had produced a large amount of orange-colored mucus, a well-known defense mechanism in snails.
The snail under examination alternately retreated into and emerged from its shell, emitting a unique sound each time it touched its shell. The recorded sound, upon analysis, was found to have lasted approximately 241 milliseconds and had two distinct pulses.
However, further examination of the sound did not reveal whether the snail produced the sound from its pulmonary cavity, like the Cantareus apertus mentioned by Braun. It remains unclear whether the snail generated the recorded sound through other means.
Scientists also conducted a spectral analysis of the sound, finding no mechanical evidence supporting the production of the sound signal. Consequently, they speculated that the sound could potentially be a stress signal emitted by the snail.
Where Does Science Stand?
Ultimately, the determination of sound or noise production in snails can only be decided by empirical scientific research, especially given the potential for misleading claims made by snail enthusiasts. Based on the two presented cases, the research offers intriguing observations.
Firstly, the ability of snails to produce sound remains inconclusive, despite the depiction of two snail species seemingly producing sound. A significant limitation of these reports is that G. Woehl and his colleague, although recording the snail’s sound, failed to collect the specimen for further investigation.
Identifying its species could have provided critical answers, but repeated visits to the Brazilian forest have yet to yield positive results. There’s also a strong possibility that the snail spotted in the Brazilian forest was the P. rhodocheilus, a rare snail species native to southern Brazil.
The second major observation centers around the nature of the sounds purportedly produced by these snails. Key questions arise regarding whether these sounds were intentional or merely a byproduct of defensive retraction into their shells.
These sounds do not definitively establish that snails produce sound, as the noise might have been a side effect of the snails’ deliberate actions, such as expelling air through the pulmonary cavity, as noted by Braun.
The notion of these sounds being incidental is further supported by the fact that both cases involved physical contact with the snails’ shells, which triggered the sound production.
Why Are Snails Among Animals That Do Not Produce Sound
Producing sound or noise requires certain biological features, such as vocal cords. Snails, interestingly, lack these structures, implying they are not naturally equipped to generate sound or noise due to their genetic makeup.
Interestingly, several other animals cannot also produce sound, including:
- Sea anemones
Snails cannot produce sound or noise except for incidental noise stemming from their other activities, such as retracting into their shells or consuming food. Snails belong to a group of animals that lack vocal cords. Thus, they don’t possess the required anatomical structures to generate sound vocally.
The recordings made by the scientists remain inconclusive, reinforcing the notion that snails cannot create noise or sound for communication purposes, as other animals can.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do snails scream when you cook them?
Snails do not scream when you cook them. This is because snails, like other mollusks, lack vocal cords and the complex nervous system required to make and perceive sounds as we understand them.
What is the sound of a snail called?
There’s no specific term for any sounds that a snail might make. While snails can generate noises due to their movement or eating habits, these sounds aren’t typically labeled in the way that more familiar animal sounds (like a dog’s bark or a cat’s meow) are.
Do snails hiss?
Snails do not hiss. Snails lack the necessary physical structures, such as lungs or vocal cords, to create a hissing sound. Any noise that may be associated with snails usually results from their movement or eating habits, not from a sound produced by the snail itself.