“What’s That?” Wednesday: Moon Snails

There is something nearly magical about discovering a moon snail shell, sitting empty in the sand near the water’s edge. Often unexpectedly large, and with a perfect spiral at their center, these shells are one way to get a glimpse inside the life cycle of an otherwise elusive creature.

Read on to find out a bit more about the moon snail (family: Naticidae) as well as to download printable sheets of useful photos and information about moon snails. Each Wednesday, check the bottom of the “What’s That?” post to find a PDF containing a fact sheet about the day’s featured item, as well as photographs and other resources ideal for using in a nature journal, research binder, or lap book.

southern shore of PEIphoto by ktlaurel

lewis moon snailphoto by Kristy

Moon Snail - 6 Inch - Low Tide

photo by John Cole

snail shells

Moon Snail Shell 2-1

Some interesting things to know about moon snails:

-Moon snails spend most of their time hidden beneath the sand in the ocean environments where they live.

– There are three main varieties of moon snail on the Atlantic coast: the Atlantic moon snail (Polinices duplicatus), the Milk moon snail (Polinices lacteus), and the Northern moon snail (Lunatia heros).

– Moon snails lay thousands of eggs at a time, and the eggs are carried atop the shell of the parent snail, becoming covered in a protective layer of sand over time.

– Moon snails are voracious predators. They eat meals of other sea creatures many times a day.

– Moon snails eat other mollusks, using a special set of sharp teeth to drill though the shells of their prey.

– A moon snail’s teeth are called radula.

– Once the moon snail has drilled through the shell of the animal it plans to eat, it releases digestive enzymes which begin to break down the creature inside its shell, making it possible for the snail to suck it out through the hole it has made.

– Finding evidence of moon snails on the beach is simple- even if you don’t see the snails themselves, you are likely to find empty clam shells with holes drilled in them.

Click here to download the moon snail nature journal resource pages to use with your own family.

4 comments… add one

  • Wendy December 18, 2013, 3:23 pm

    Beautiful photos–unfortunately we live on the wrong coast to see these beauties! I especially like the photo by John Cole.

    • dawn December 19, 2013, 5:54 am

      Thank you, Wendy. We have some talented photographers out there adding to the Flickr group. John’s photos are beautiful.

  • tamara December 19, 2013, 11:47 am

    Oh, these are so beautiful! I find it unfortunate I’ve never seen them in person but these photographs are certainly the next best thing!

    • dawn November 21, 2014, 1:59 pm

      Tam, There is a moon snail discussion going on over on the Forest Friday Group. I thought of this post. It looks like we need to hunt out your way for them. We should make a beach date!

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