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The Role of Fungi in the Diet of Snails

Updated: Jul 10, 2023

By Katherine M. Pagán Rivera

Did you know that slugs love eating fungi? This week at TRACE we saw a snail eating some of them. These small mollusks have developed a particular preference for fungi and utilize them as a valuable food source.

But, what makes fungi so appealing to snails? First, fungi provide a wide range of essential nutrients for their growth and development. Fungal organisms are rich in proteins, carbohydrates, and vitamins, making them a highly beneficial nutritional source for snails. (Speiser & Rowell 1991)

In addition to their nutritional value, fungi offer tropical snails a great diversity of flavors. Snails possess sensitive chemical receptors that enable them to detect and differentiate various types of fungi. This ability helps them find the most suitable fungi for consumption while avoiding those that may be toxic.

As snails feed on fungi, they also play an essential role in spore dispersal. Research suggests that Fungal spores can adhere to their bodies and aget dispersed as snails move through the environment. (Kitabayashi et al 2022)

In summary, tropical snails exhibit a particular preference for fungi due to their nutritional value, flavor diversity, and their role in spore dispersal. The relationship between snails and fungi is a fascinating example of how organisms interact and mutually depend on each other in tropical ecosystems.

If you would like to expand on the above mentioned topics, please see the following references:

Kitabayashi, K., Kitamura, S., & Tuno, N. (2022). Fungal spore transport by omnivorous mycophagous slug in temperate forest. Ecology and Evolution, 12, e8565.

Speiser, B., & Rowell-Rahier, M. (1991). Effects of Food Availability, Nutritional Value, and Alkaloids on Food Choice in the Generalist Herbivore Arianta arbustorum (Gastropoda: Helicidae). Oikos, 62(3), 306–318.

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