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iLabs: Visitor question – How Many Chambers in a Snail Heart

August 17, 2012

During our Snail Week activities we had many questions regarding snail biology and functions. This post answers the visitor question: How many chambers does a snail heart have?

Most have a two-chambered heart: one ventricle and one atrium. A few have three chambers, though I have not found specifics on that.

Most snails have a blood pigment that uses copper and is called haemocyanin. However, the Planorbis (Ramshorn) snail has hemoglobin.

I have two websites I came across with some good information on the circulatory system of snails:

1) Apple Snail interactive website

2) For an in-depth explanation of snail respiratory and circulatory functions, here is some information on snail blood types and heart chambers from the website, The Living World of Molluscs”

“Most snails’ blood pigment is haemocyanin. Contrary to haemoglobin, used by vertebrates, haemocyanin works on a complex with copper as oxygen binding atom. That is why snail blood in its oxidised state appears pale blue in colour.

Less often snails also use haemoglobin (the ram’s horn snail Planorbis does), the blood pigments are different between snail groups. Snails’ heart lies near the respiratory organs. Snails with transparent shells, such as Vitrinidae (glass snails) or Succineidae (amber snails) offer the possibility to see the heart without having to kill the snail. Snails usually have two heart chambers, one atrium and one ventricle. Few groups have two atriums, making the heart a three-chambered one. There is a valve between atrium and ventricle to prevent the blood from flowing back. Snails’ circulation basically is open. The exception are few large blood vessels, that transport blood for example to the visceral sac or to the foot. Besides that the blood circulates freely in so called lacunae or sinuses, body cavities incompletely separated from each other by tissue walls.”

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