Terrifying Fact: Snails Have Thousands of Teeth

iStock.com/Yousef-Abuaisheh
iStock.com/Yousef-Abuaisheh

Snails are hardly the dull creatures they're often made out to be. They may be slow, but there are species of snails that can thrive in harsh environments, paralyze their prey, and have sex by harpooning their partners with love darts. If all that isn't enough to impress you, take a peek inside a snail's mouth if you ever get the opportunity: You'll find rows and rows of sharp chompers, making up thousands of snail teeth all together, according to NPR.

Snails are packing dozens of rows of pearly whites, with a single snail boasting anywhere between 2000 and 15,000 teeth between its jaws. Up close, the inside of a snail's mouth looks like it's lined with Velcro. The snail teeth hook inward, making it easy for the animal to latch onto its meal and slide it down its gullet.

Teeth on snail tongue,
L. P. van Ofwegen, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 3.0

The sheer number of teeth it has isn't the only thing that makes a snail's smile terrifying. The mollusk cycles through teeth like a shark does, with new rows growing in the back of the mouth and gradually moving forward to bump out the worn teeth up front. Together these rows make something called a radula, a tongue-like pad the snail uses to snag food by extending it out of its mouth, xenomorph-style. Of all snail varieties, limpets—a small type of sea snail—may be the most dentally gifted: Their teeth are made from protein reinforced by fine mineral nanofibers called goethite, and according to one study, they're even stronger than spider silk, potentially making them the toughest biological material on Earth.

One source of comfort here is that snail teeth are also tiny: A single limpet tooth is slimmer than a human hair. That means a vicious snail on the loose likely can't do you much harm—unless maybe you're a piece of grass.

[h/t NPR]

A Python Swallowed a Crocodile Whole—and a Photographer Was There to Capture It All

KarenHBlack/iStock via Getty Images
KarenHBlack/iStock via Getty Images

As long as it can fit through their elastic jaws, there's not much pythons won't eat. This genus of snakes has been known to swallow everything from small bears to porcupines. As Live Science reports, a python was recently spotted eating a crocodile in Australia—and the disturbing encounter was caught on camera.

On May 31, 2019, the Australian nonprofit GG Wildlife Rescue Inc. shared photos a kayaker named Martin Muller captured of a snake inhaling a crocodile outside Mount Isa in Queensland. The snake was an olive python—a native Australian species that's found exclusively on the continent. Pythons can subdue large prey by wrapping their powerful bodies around it and constricting the animal until it suffocates. Killing a large, aggressive predator like a freshwater crocodile is only half the job. Once its prey is ready to eat, the python opens its jaw, which can stretch several times larger than its head, and gradually consumes its meal, a process that can take hours.

The images below offer a rare look at this brutal act of nature. Muller captured the entire scene, from the python wrangling the croc to the gluttonous feeding that takes place afterwards. The last photos in the series show the python with a large, lumpy bulge in its belly—a sign of its success.

Pythons have been spotted eating crocodiles and alligators in the past, and it doesn't always end well for them. In 2005, a Burmese python in Florida—where they're an invasive species—burst open after trying to swallow an alligator whole. If this python spotted in Australia can stomach its meal, the croc will potentially sustain the snake for months.

[h/t Live Science]

An Underpass for Turtles in Wisconsin Is Saving Dozens of the Little Guys’ Lives

Dmytro Varavin/iStock via Getty Images
Dmytro Varavin/iStock via Getty Images

Why did the turtle cross the road? Because an underground tunnel made it safe to do so.

In 2016, the Wisconsin Departments of Transportation and Natural Resources partnered with the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point to construct a tunnel beneath Highway 66, hoping to cut down on high turtle mortality rates, reports Robert Mentzer for Wisconsin Public Radio.

The tunnel, with Jordan Pond on one side and wetlands on the other, was a noble venture, but the turtles had no way of knowing it was a crossing point rather than a dark and potentially dangerous hole. So Pete Zani, herpetologist and associate professor of biology at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, installed aluminum flashing outside of each opening, which would reflect the sky and let turtles know that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Zani also installed grates above the tunnel to make it less shadowy, and a small cul-de-sac in a nearby piece of the fencing to encourage turtles who had missed the tunnel to turn around.

Zani and his team found that in the first year after construction, 85 percent fewer turtles were killed on the road, and no baby turtles were among the casualties. In the last few years combined, only 40 turtles died, compared to 66 deaths in 2015 alone.

That’s great news for local turtles, of course, and it’s great news for local humans, too. The intersection in question is always busy with truckers, commuters, and families en route to Jordan Pond, and turtle crossing can exacerbate traffic congestion and increase the chance of accidents.

Not all turtles have caught on, however, and it looks like some might never get the memo. Zani found that about 30 percent of snapping turtles and 20 percent of painted turtles make it through the tunnel, and those numbers have been consistent each year since construction. “They either get it or they don’t,” Zani told Wisconsin Public Radio.

Other animals are getting it, too. As part of the experiment, Zani set up a turtle-wrangling program in which students monitored trail cameras for turtle activity outside the underpass. In photos captured by the cameras, they noticed that rodents, mink, skunks, raccoons, and even house cats were traveling by turtle tunnel.

[h/t Wisconsin Public Radio]

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