10

In One Piece there are some snail-like creatures that

..have the ability to communicate with each other telepathically through radio waves. The people in One Piece world take advantage of this ability by attaching buttons and receivers to them. Den Den Mushi thus take the place of telephones and other similar machines in the world of One Piece.

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I have never seen one moving about freely. Are they fully conscious of their surroundings, could they move freely if they wanted to? Or do once they become tamed and personalized they just become fully fledged telephones?

6

There is only one sort of moving Den Den Mushi. The only place where you see then is in the Tenth movie

Self-Propelled Visual Den Den Mushi Shiki has a variant of the Visual Den Den Mushi called the Self-Propelled Visual Den Den Mushi (自走式映像転送電伝虫 Jisō-shiki Eizō Tensō Den-den Mushi?). As the name implies they are able to move and look around. They also appear to be close to the same size as the larger variant of the Visual Den Den Mushi and have attachments that allow them to project what they can see to a monitor.

The Den Den mushi are normal snails untill people attach the phones to them.

This is taken from SBS 41(Q&A with author)

D: In Chapter 367, Sanji-kun destroys the Den Den Mushi. That's so mean!!! The Den Den Mushi didn't do anything wrong! Even a Den Den Mushi would cry if that happened to it! It cries when it hurts! It cries because its heart hurts even more than its body! So let's apologize to it, shall we? P.N. Naoko

O: Oh, well, you see... OK, I admit, I may have created that impression, but it's okay. On the right is a wild Den Den Mushi. It has the ability to communicate with its species through radio (thought) waves. Humans attach buttons and receivers to them so they can contact specific other Den Den Mushi. So, you can destroy the receiver without hurting the Den Den Mushi.

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