Cepaea nemoralis

Cepaea nemoralis

Grove snail
Cepaea nemoralis
Cepaea nemoralis
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Mollusca
Class: Gastropoda
(unranked): clade Heterobranchia

clade Euthyneura
clade Panpulmonata
clade Eupulmonata
clade Stylommatophora
informal group Sigmurethra

Superfamily: Helicoidea
Family: Helicidae
Genus: Cepaea
Species: C. nemoralis
Binomial name
Cepaea nemoralis
(Linnaeus, 1758)[2]

The grove snail or brown-lipped snail (Cepaea nemoralis) is a species of air-breathing land snail, a terrestrial pulmonate gastropod mollusc. It is one of the most common species of land snail in Europe and has been introduced to North America.

Cepaea nemoralis is the type species of the genus Cepaea.[3]

It is used as a model organism in citizen science projects.[4]


Cepaea nemoralis is among the largest and because of its polymorphism and bright colours one of the best known snails in Western Europe.[4] The colour of the shell of Cepaea nemoralis is very variable, reddish, brownish, yellow or whitish, with or without dark brown colour bands.[5] Apertural lip usually dark brown, rarely white.[5] The umbilicus is narrow but open in juveniles, closed in adults.[5] For every colour variant names were established in the 1800s; this was later abandoned.[5] The surface of the shell is semi-glossy, and it has from 4½ to 5½ whorls. The width of the shell is 18–25 mm.[5] The height of the shell is 12–22 mm.[5]


The similar species Cepaea vindobonensis is less intensively coloured.[5] The grove snail is closely related to the white-lipped snail, C. hortensis, shares much the same habitat, and has similar shell colour and pattern.[5] The grove snail is usually the larger of the two species when mature, but the principal difference is that the adult grove snail almost always has a dark brown lip to its shell, whilst adults of Cepaea hortensis almost always have a white lip.[5] However, a morph of the grove snail also has a white lip. In areas where lip colour is variable, dissection is necessary: the structure of the love dart is quite different in the two species, as are the vaginal mucus glands. A cross-section of the love dart shows a cross with simple blades, whereas that of C. hortensis has bifurcated blades.[5] C. hortensis has 4 or more branches of body light with reddish or brownish hue, upper side often slightly darker, tentacles darker and 15 mm long.[5]


Apart from the band at the lip of the shell, grove snails are highly polymorphic in their shell colour and banding. The background colour of the shell can sometimes be so pale as to be almost white; it can also be yellow, pink, chestnut through to dark brown, and the shells can be with or without dark bandings. The bands vary in intensity of colour, in width and in total number, from zero up to a total of six.

The polymorphism has been intensely studied from 1940 onwards for its heredity, evolution and ecology. Researchers have variously asserted that the cause is random genetic drift, different natural selection pressures in different areas (the snail often has darker camouflage in woodland, lighter in rough grassland) with mixing by migration, and balanced polymorphism. Balanced polymorphism could arise when a predator like the Song Thrush has a given 'search image', so it tends to see and kill snails of a particular colour and pattern. Natural selection would then favour a diversity of colours and patterns as an antipredator adaptation. However it appears that no one explanation is the whole answer: most probably, the polymorphism has several causes, including selection of paler, more reflective colours in hot environments to reduce water loss.[6]

Different coloration and banding of the shells of Cepaea nemoralis:


Its native distribution is from northern and western Europe to central Europe,[7] including Ireland[5] and Great Britain. It is rare and scattered in northern Scotland where it has been introduced.[5] It is not found in the Hebrides, Orkney or Shetland.[5] It seems to have been affected by air pollution and soil acidification in some parts of England.[5] It is found in France, Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, eastwards to northwestern Poland,[5] Czech Republic,[8] SW Hungary,[5] southern Portugal,[5] central Spain,[5] Bosnia,[5] in Italy to Lucania,[5] and as far north as southern Sweden.[5] In Eastern Europe it is found in Latvia,[5] Kaliningrad,[5] Estonia (Hiiumaa island),[5] and Ukraine.[9]

No doubt aided by human transport, it is a good colonizer, and is often found in gardens, parks and abandoned land in cities.[4] In eastern Europe it occurs in urban areas. More recently, the grove snail has been introduced to North America,[5] and Venezuela.

The white-lipped snail has a similar range, but that species extends further north to border the Arctic.


It is a very common and widespread species in the Western Europe, occupying a very wide range of habitats from dunes along the coast to woodlands with full canopy cover.[4] It lives in shrubs and open woods in plains and highlands, dunes, cultivated habitats, gardens and roadsides.[5] It can be found up to 1200 m in the Alps, 1800 m in the Pyrenees, 900 m in Wales, 600 m in Scotland.[5]

It feeds mainly on dead or senescent plants.[4][5] It is not noxious to crops.[5]

Like most Pulmonate land snails, it is hermaphrodite and must mate to produce fertile eggs.[4] Mating tends to be concentrated in late spring and early summer, though it can continue through the autumn.[4] The snails often store the sperm they receive from their partner for some time, and individual broods can have mixed paternity.[4] In Britain it lays clutches of 30-50 (in France 40-80) oval eggs are laid between June and August (in France May–October, in W France until November).[5] The size of the egg is 3.1 × 2.6 mm[10] or egg diameter can be 2.3-3.0 mm.[5] Juveniles hatch after 15–20 days.[5] Maturity is reached after shell is fully grown, in France after one year.[5] It is comparatively slow-growing, usually taking three years to develop from an egg to a breeding adult.[4] Life-span is up to seven-eight years, annual survival rates at about 50% (= 3% in five years, older adults suffer higher mortalities).[5] In winter, the snails may hibernate, but can be active in warm spells.[4]


Predators of Cepaea nemoralis include the Song Thrush Turdus philomelos and others.


This article includes public domain text from the reference[5] and CC-BY-2.5 text from the reference[4]

External links

  • Cepaea in captivity
  • polymorphism
  • Dr. J. James Murray's Home Page
  • Life & Environment, University of the West of Scotland