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 or if they are able to mend their broken shells.

Sadly more often than not the outcome is not good. Snails can usually only repair minor damage to their shells, the comforting tale that snails can ‘move’ to a spare empty shell is just a myth.

Body Armour

Much like our own fingernails, 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.
Can Snails mend their broken shells? 

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 probably die. Whilst snails can repair small cracks and holes in their shells, if the break is serious then they will struggle to survive as the shell not only provides protection but also prevents them 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 their shells.

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

Other animal welfare articles:
Stop Hedgehogs drowning in your garden pond.
Help is at hand for toads stuck in drains.

27 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…”🐌 💘

    Reply
  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.

    Reply
  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

    Reply
  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.

    Reply
  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 😭😭😭

    Reply
  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.

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  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.

    Reply
  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

    Reply
  9. My snail just died 😭
    7 months ago I found a baby snail in a box of raspberries I purchased at a supermarket. The raspberries were in a refrigerator for almost a week before I opened them and that’s when I found the snail – Gary, he was alive and well. I didn’t know where I could’ve released him so I kept him. I fed him and cleaned his tank regularly. In his first or second month with us, his little shell cracked but we managed to help him heal. He seemed to thrive up until recently when he had another accident… he fell asleep on the wall of the tank and fell.. his shell cracked again and he wasn’t doing well. As he was still moving around a lot, his shell kept deteriorating. In the course of the last week, he was moving significantly less and today morning we woke up to seeing him dead. I never thought I’d miss a snail so much 😰

    Reply
  10. Yesterday I slightly stepped on a small snail while saving another snail, and his shell cracked—I felt so bad 😢😢😢 and just went home, but then I searched and found this page, reading that I could tape his shell together to let him mend it, so I walked all the way back with Scotch Tape. He had crawled onto a leaf and seemed pretty healthy, but I bandaged his shell with tape anyway. His shell and the tape were pretty loose, but hopefully he’ll make it now that his shell is fairly secured.
    It’s so nice reading that so many people care for snails and are willing to save them (whereas some people hate snails and try to kill them)! 😍😇🙌🏻 🐌🐌🌷🌱

    Reply
  11. Thank you everyone for all your comments . I stepped on a snail
    Accidently but it’s still alive … hoping it’ll survive …🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻. Such lovely caring people in here 👍

    Reply
  12. I have one that accidentally had its soft shell broken. I’ve been misting it 3 times a day and placed it near eggshells in a soil filled container at home but it hasn’t moved yet. It still looks moist and will stick to my hand but it hasn’t emerged in 3 days. Will it survive???! 🥺

    Reply
  13. I am currently looking after a small garden snail that’s shell has been completely crushed. It’s not moving at all so I’m fearing the worst but have placed in in a container on some grass/ flowers/ leaves. Will keep putting fresh fruit and veg near it too 😬 does anyone know of anything else I could try?

    Reply

Leave a comment