Can Snails Repair Their Broken Shells?

Many of us have heard the sickening crunch of a snail’s shell as we accidentally crush them whilst out walking or tidying the garden shed. If you have then you may have wondered if it spells the end for your unlucky garden friend.

Sadly the answer is probably yes. Snails can only repair minor damage to their shells, the comforting tale that snails can ‘move’ to a new spare shell is just a myth.

Body Armour

Much like our own finger nails a snail’s shell forms part of its body. Snails are born with their shells in place but at first the shell is soft and unformed. This soft early shell soon hardens and grows with the snail throughout its adult life.

A close up image of a snail shell.
A close up image of a snail shell.
As the snail grows it produces further soft shell material that hardens to further grow its defensive armour. The snail excretes the new shell material around the opening of its shell causing it to grow in a spiral, widening with the snail’s increasing body mass.

If this shell becomes significantly broken then the snail will die. Whilst they can repair small cracks and holes if the break is serious then they will die as the shell not only provides protection but also prevents the snail from drying out.

Human Intervention

In captivity people have been known to use plasters and even normal sticking tape to hold minor broken shells together allowing the snail to fill and seal the cracks.

In one extreme case a vet in Israel carried out extensive repairs to a stricken snail gluing it’s shell together.

18 thoughts on “Can Snails Repair Their Broken Shells?”

  1. Accidentally cracked my first captive snail. Almost a 1/3still hanging on 2 days later 🙏(know that seems weird but
    “all Gods creatures…”🐌 💘

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  2. I accidentally stepped on a snail a few weeks ago. I took it home, created a terrarium for it, put in mos and a drinking spot (a tiny bowl with a soft sponge that I cut to fit perfectly in the bowl so it doesn’t drown) and a piece of sepia and it’s lived in his new home for a while now. I put in a few sea shells that it uses to sleep in. It’s safe in there and thriving! It’s a vine snail (there are 12 that chose my small back yard as their home. They’re an endangered species.) So, a snail absolutely can survive without a shell BUT ONLY in “captivity”. I use a spray bottle twice a day to mist down the terrarium and the snail.

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    • Could you give me more specific details ? I have a snail and it just got crushed, it is still alive and seems to be walking, I do not know what to do and your comment is the only helpful thing I’ve found so far

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  3. I have four garden snails, just had one out and dropped it! What an idiot! I’m not sure if it will survive but the tank with soil ,food and sphagnum moss is very moist, there is also cuttle fish for calcium, also they have a roof tile raised on two coconut halves to hide under, but it doesn’t stop me feeling bad and bloody clumsy

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  4. Reading the above comments gives me beautiful hope in humanity. All creatures are worthy of life and love. Thank you all for sharing your stories.

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  5. I accidentally crushed my snail’s shell yesterday. It’s a very small snail. He went inside the remains. I keep him in a small box with a lot of moisture and near a cuttlefish. Hasn’t moved yet. I feel so bad. I don’t know if he’s gonna make it 😭😭😭

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  6. Hello. I dropped my pet garden snail and it lost nearly all of its shell. I am keeping it in a soft plastic well ventilated box and he seems content. I will keep going as long as I know it is not suffering pain.Its environment is very moist and has cucumber and leaf veg in. (The snail never liked fruit). It is eating and seems ok. I will pick up some calcium and cuttlefish bone and have another think about the missing shell – it’s not damaged, its practically all gone. Does anyone have any helpful,positive suggestions? Thanks very much. I will not euthanise the snail unless I am certain it is the only thing to do.

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    • I accidentally squished a snail and now half it’s shell is gone (the shell around the mantle area) it’s a baby snail the size of a thumbnail and i couldn’t bring myself to euthanize it so its currently living in my house inside a cup. After reading a forum about a snail with no shell surviving for 3 days I had a bit if hope. It’s been a week now and the snail looks like it has been growing a shell back. It doesn’t look like a shell but it’s shaped like one and he can now hide inside of it. As long as you give the snail somewhere to hide upside-down (they can suffocate without a shell because the breathing hole collapses) i think the snail will live and eventually grow a shell back.

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  7. No doubt if you are reading this page you have either accidently stepped on a snail or have found one that has been partly crushed or cracked but not killed. Snails are very resilient creatures and can recover from some pretty bad breaks but it is hard to know which will survive and which won’t.

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  8. I have 18 garden snail and i accidentally dropped one of them and it’s the largest one😔 hope it will survive it only has a small crack

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