A dump of snail shells discovered in Greece’s Franchthi cave suggests snail-farming dates back to 10,700bc. Snails are still farmed around the world, especially in Germany and Switzerland – the French ate almost all theirs to extinction and have to import them. Snails are also the oldest known form of personal decoration: 75,000 year old shells were used as beads.
The garden snail is an introduced species in the UK having arrived with the Romans. In fact a Roman excavation at Wroxeter (Shropshire) showed that the gastropods were probably sold as fast food in the street. The largest species of snail in the UK is the Roman snail at 4 inches long - most British snails are less than 5mm in diameter.
Snails born in space walk in strange random patterns when placed in a tank.
All land snails are hermaphrodites. Mating involves dancing and kissing for up to 20 hours before sex. They touch one another with their lips and tentacles while leaning from side to side. During sex, they sometimes choose to employ their love-dart. The love-dart is actually more like a 7-11mm dagger that releases chemicals to stimulate the stabbed mate.
This violent act can result in injury if carried out inaccurately, but use of the dart doubles the chances of offspring. Without it, enzymes attack the 5.5 million sperm, leaving only 1,400 survivors. Snails can carry received sperm for up to a year.
Snails have up to 14,500 teeth on their tongues.
Sicilian proverbs are obsessed with snails. They include the following:
Where're he dwells, he dwells alone,
Except himself his chattels none,
Well satisfied to be his own
In Stuart times, it was thought that snails boiled in milk would cure consumption.