The Physics
An encyclopedia of scientific essays

Speed of a Snail

search icon
Bibliographic Entry Result
(w/surrounding text)
The World Almanac and Book of Facts 1999. New Jersey: Primedia, 1998: 572. "Garden snail, 0.03 mph" 0.013 m/s
Branson, Branley Allan. World & I. 11, 5 (May 1996): 166. "A large banana slug has been observed to cover 6.5 inches in 120 minutes. At that rate, a tortoise would seem fleet-footed." 0.000023 m/s
The Guinness Book of World Records 1998. Stanford, CT: Guinness, 1997: 144. "A garden snail named Archie, owned by Carl Branhorn of Pott Row, England, covered a 13 inch course in 2 minutes at the 1995 World Snail Racing Championships, held in Longhan, England." 0.0028 m/s

Snails and slugs are gastropods, which make up the largest class of mollusks with more than 60,000 species. Most of these species can be identified by their shells. Some dwell in ocean, others in the freshwater of rivers, ponds, and lakes. Land snails abound in tropical jungles and in damp temperate regions. All of them need calcium carbonate for building their shells, and so are not common in sandy soil. Slugs differ from snails in that they generally have only a small internal shell.

Snails move by sliding on their single foot. Specialized glands in the foot secrete mucus, which lubricates the path over which the snail crawls. Snails can only crawl. Even those that live in water can't swim. As they crawl they secrete a slime to help themselves move across surfaces. Snails and slugs travel at speeds that vary from slow (0.013 m/s) to very slow (0.0028 m/s).

The snail's head bears the mouth opening and one or two pairs of tentacles. The eyes are located at the base of the tentacles. Most snails live off plants and dead organic matter, although a few are carnivorous. Their radula is a tongue-like projection of their mouth which is lined with small sharp teeth. Some snails obtain food by using their radula to drill holes in the shells of other mollusks.

Freshwater snails and land snails have been eaten by people since prehistoric times. Today they are still regarded as a delicacy in many countries. The market supply comes largely from snails that are raised in captivity on special farms in southern France, Italy, and Spain. About 10,000 snails can be kept in a 9 square meter area, where they are fed meal, vegetables, and bran.

Angie Yee -- 1999

Bibliographic Entry Result
(w/surrounding text)
Doherty, James G. Natural History. March 1974. as cited in Speed of Animals. InfoPlease Kid's Almanac. "Garden snail 0.03 mph" 0.013 m/s
Ready, steady, escargot. BBC News, UK. 10 December 1999. "The Guinness Gastropod Championship, held in the O'Conor Don pub in central London, also featured an attempt to break the world 13 inch sprint record -- currently held by Archie at two minutes 20 seconds." 0.0024 m/s
"But it turned out to be a disappointing day for Mr. Riseborough, whose fastest snail came in at six minutes 26 seconds." 0.00086 m/s
Snail's Pace, Last Word, New Scientist, October 2001. "Snails have been measured at speeds of 0.048 kilometres per hour." 0.013 m/s
"The fastest speed achieved by a snail in the Guinness Gastropod Championship, held over a 13-inch (330-millimetre) course in the O'Conor Don pub in central London, is only 0.0085 kilometres per hour. This record is held by a mollusc called Archie, which took 2 minutes and 20 seconds to cover the course." 0.0024 m/s
"During a series of experiments involving the marine gastropod Gibbula umbilicalis, I measured a mean speed of 0.0065 kilometres per hour when it was in the presence of a predatory starfish, Asterias rubens." 0.0018 m/s
As It Happened 1975: Snail Racer [Real Media File]. Interview with Chris Hudson of Brighton, England by Barbara Frum. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 1975. "Well, the fastest snail that I've ever had covered a two foot course, which is a standard course for a snail race … in some three minutes flat. Now any mathematicians listening to the program will realize straight away that works out at 132 hours to travel a full mile." 0.0034 m/s
Sidney the snail races to victory in world championships, Heidi Blake, The Telegraph, 19 July 2010. "The gastropod won the final at the village fete in Congham, Norfolk on Saturday in a time of three minutes and 41 seconds. His owner, 62-year-old Claire Lawrence from Litcham, Norfolk, was presented with a silver tankard filled with lettuce…. The snails are placed in the centre of an inner circle, from which they must travel 13-inches to an outer circle which forms the finishing line." 0.0015

Editor's Supplement -- 1999, 2001, 2002, 2010

External links to this page: