|Image: Kathrin & Stefan Marks|
We land-lubbers have really been spoilt by our snails. While marine gastropods may be richly endowed in poisons, venomous stings and carnivorous appetites, the terrestrial variety are like tiny, slimy, armour-clad cows. They've settled into the quiet life, tending our gardens and eating them a little. So long as neither you or your loved ones are a cabbage, you have nothing to fear.
Turns out New Zealand is home to flightless parrots, crickets so big they could eat an entire wife (made of cabbage) and hordes of giant, meat-eating snails. I guess that's what happens when you're in the upside-down part of the world.
There are 23 species in all, spread across two closely related genera called Paryphanta and Powelliphanta. The biggest of them all has a shell that can reach 9 cm (3.6 in) long! These are not the world's only terrestrial, meat-eating gastropods, but I would love to know if there are any that are bigger.
These Carnivorous Land Snails spend the daylight hours hidden in moist soil and emerge at night to feed. Horribly. Worms seem to be a particular favourite. They get really close and just stay there a while, like Dracula sniffing a fair maiden's neck in a most inappropriate manner. And then the snail's mouth opens grotesquely and slurps the worm right up at a shocking speed. I don't think the worm has moved that quickly before in all its life! Shame it was doing it towards a gaping cakehole.
These snails can live for over 20 years, which is at least twice as long as most others. So much for a healthy, balanced diet. It's worms all the way.