A gastropod mollusk, the snail is a terrestrial herbivorous animal that lives inside a spiral shell. This shell, into which the snail can withdraw, is formed of three successive layers that protect the snail’s organs. Its body is called the foot, a large elongated muscular organ containing the head of the snail. The pedal gland, located near its mouth, secretes an adhesive substance that allows the snail to crawl more easily, at a speed of about 4 m per hour.
The snail is an astonishing animal due to its peculiar reproductive mode. In fact, just like the slug, the earthworm or the sea cucumber, the snail is hermaphrodite. In that species, each individual animal has male as well as female reproductive organs and can produce both spermatozoa and ova, thanks to a genital gland located under its shell’s crown and called the ovotestis.
When two snails mate, each of them is impregnated by the other and both partners eventually lay eggs. This species, therefore, reproduces very efficiently.
Highly valued since Roman times, the snail was bred by the Romans and is now farmed intensively in France, Algeria and Turkey. The French, who eat more snails than any other nationality, savor thousands of tons of these little mollusks each year. Snails are often sold canned or frozen.
The snail is appreciated for the firmness and delicacy of its flesh that can be prepared in many different ways: grilled; sautéed; or cooked on brochettes or in sauces, court bouillon, or puff pastry. However, most of the time snails are served as a piping hot appetizer, covered with garlic butter in a special dish designed for them.