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.

14 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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  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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