While they’re sludging along the ground or chomping on your garden, their locomotion doesn’t seem very exciting. But speed them up 250% and the truth comes out: snails are running on gooey tank treads.
This awesome footage shows just how cool snail-o-motion really is. Gastropods (snails and slugs) and some other mollusks are powered by waves of muscular contractions that move down the length of their mucus-lined “foot,” propelling them forward. This is similar to how we move while executing everyone’s favorite party trick. (Snailed it.)
This locomotion style allows snails and their relatives to traverse all kinds of terrain, and interestingly, water snails prefer to back themselves out of trouble, traveling in the opposite direction as the waves.
If they’ve got the treads, why the slime? The ability to move this way is actually one part muscle, and one part fluid mechanics. Snail slime is an “incompressible fluid,” meaning that when a snail exerts force on it, it will change positions along the foot, rather than thin out. Essentially, snails aren’t so much moving over their mucus, as moving with it, which not only helps drive the train, but also allows for climbing steep inclines without slippage.
Oh and while we’re talking about weird stuff about snails, we don’t know why it weirds us out so much that snails have mouths, but it does: