A number of species in this family are valued as food items, including Helix aspersa the garden snail, and Helix pomatia the "escargot". The biology of these two species in particular has been much studied.
The mouth is always provided with a jaw, which is striate, ribbed, sulcate or plicate, sometimes composed of several imbricating pieces. The radula is composed of many transverse horizontal series of teeth, the centrals tricuspidate, about the size of the laterals, laterals bicuspid, or tricuspid with the interior cusp obsolete, marginals usually wider than high, short with two or three small cusps.[unreliable source?]
In the soft parts the most obvious distinction is the lack of a caudal mucous pit, and their possessing a sculptured jaw. Typically, there is a distinction in the dentition, although in some species the lateral teeth take on a pseudozonitoid appearance; even in such cases the extreme marginals in Helix remain short and very obtuse.[unreliable source?]
This family of snails is defined by the anatomical presence of a diverticulum. Some genera within this family create and use love darts as part of their mating behavior. These snails have one dart apparatus. The dart sac has no accessory sac, and contains two tubular glands, inserted at the base of the dart sac.
However some of the species, for example Helix aspersa, have been introduced and become established in numerous different areas worldwide.
Many accidental introductions happen because the eggs of most Helicidae are laid in the soil, and they may thus easily travel unnoticed along with landscaping plants.
The family Helicidae contains 2 subfamilies (according taxonomy of the Gastropoda by Bouchet & Rocroi, 2005) and genera within the family Helicidae include (after Fauna Europaea and Taxonomy Browser):
Subfamily Helicinae Rafinesque, 1815 - In this subfamily the glands are divided. The love dart has four blades or vanes. There are two penial papillae.
- Tribe Thebini Wenz, 1923 - The synonym Euparyphinae Perrot, 1939 has been declared an invalid name.
- Cantareus Risso, 1826
- Cepaea Held, 1838
- Cornu Born, 1778
- Eobania P. Hesse, 1913
- Helix Linnaeus, 1758 - type genus
- Idiomela T. Cockerell, 1921
- Otala Schumacher, 1817
- Tribe Murellini Hesse, 1918
- Marmorana W. Hartmann, 1844 - This genus might actually belong to the subfamily Ariantinae and not to the subfamily Helicinae, as has been assumed until now.
- Arianta Turton, 1831
- Chilostoma Fitzinger, 1833
- Cylindrus Fitzinger, 1833
- Helicigona A. Férussac, 1821
- Isognomostoma Fitzinger, 1833
- M.P. Kerney & R.A.D. Cameron. 1979. A field guide to the land snails of Britain and northwestern Europe. Collins, London.
- Tryon G. W. 1887 Manual of conchology; structural and systematic. With illustrations of the species. Second series: Pulmonata. Volume 3. Helicidae - Volume I. page 3-4.
- Barker G. M.: Gastropods on Land: Phylogeny, Diversity and Adaptive Morphology. in Barker G. M. (ed.): The biology of terrestrial molluscs. CABI Publishing, Oxon, UK, 2001, ISBN 0-85199-318-4. 1-146, cited pages: 139 and 142.
- Fauna Europaea
- Taxonomy Browser
- Nordsieck H. (2006). Higher classification of Helicoidea and the molecular analyses of their phylogeny. hnords.de, Accessed 20/06/12
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