Vivienne Brown and the Room one class at Casa Nova School, Oamaru, asks :-

Can snails get indigestion?

Murray Efford, an ecologist and expert on native snails with Landcare Research, Dunedin, responded.

So your snails ate the cardboard snail house you all so carefully built for them. Don't worry. Your snails should be fine after their meal of cardboard. Snails have special chemicals (called enzymes) in their guts to help digest cellulose - the main stuff of cardboard and plant cell walls.

Native snails I have collected also like eating cardboard: unfortunately they scraped the surface off my labels so I couldn't read them! They survived quite happily, and I have learned to use plastic labels.

Israeli desert snails even eat rocks. They scrape off the surface layers to get at fungi growing inside. Most snails eat plants, but many prefer to eat other animals. In New Zealand we have some that eat worms and some that eat other snails. Some are even fast enough to catch landhoppers: look under some rotting leaves and see if you can do it! I have found a dead snail with a landhopper stuck inside: maybe it had indigestion from swallowing one that was too big.

New Zealand has an extraordinary variety of native land snails, most of them minute. The larger ones tend to be carnivorous. Some that I have studied with time-lapse video have unique tricks such as gripping their prey with the tip of their tail as they crawl off under the leaves to finish it off.