Wednesday 18 June 2014

Giant African Land Snail

Image: Grzegorz Polak
Big snail - big appetite - big problem for your garden.

And that's just about everything you need to know about the Giant African Land Snail! So let's get the thesaurus out and repeat everything using different words.

It's a large, terrestrial gastropod from sub-Saharan... Africa.


Image: Arthur Chapman
Achatina fulica
The Achatinidae family contains about 200 such snails, ranging in size from quite big to SICKENINGLY ENORMOUS.

The one most commonly called the Giant African Land Snail is Achatina fulica, which comes from east Africa and can reach over 20 cm (8 in) in length. Other similarly sized species can be found in other parts of the continent, and there are yet more that reach less than half that size.

Image: Schneckenmama
Giant Tiger Land Snail, Achatina achatina
The shells that Giant African Land Snails carry around with them are often quite beautiful. They're covered in lovely stripes reminiscent of the semi-precious gemstone called agate. The genus name Achatina comes from the Greek for 'agate' and the species Achatina achatina is also known as the Giant Tiger Land Snail. Clearly those attractive stripes have not gone unnoticed.

Something else that hasn't gone unnoticed is the fact that some Giant African Land Snails and slowly taking over the world.

Image: Sonel.SA
Achatina achatina is perhaps the biggest land snail in the world
Species like Achatina fulica and Achatina achatina are incredibly invasive. Pick them up from their African homeland, drop them somewhere warm and humid on the other side of the world, and before you know it they're taking over the place!

This is precisely what's happened. They've travelled the world, taken across the seas to serve as interesting pets or an... "interesting" food source. They've now become established in countries across the globe, like China, India, the United States and islands throughout the West Indies and the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

Video: rain2shine

It turns out that several Giant African Land Snails can thrive in a wide variety of habitats, from forests and wetlands to agricultural and urban areas. They can feed on a huge variety of plants and have a particular fondness for fruits and vegetables, ie. the best bits. No stingy leaves and twigs for them!

The calcium they need to develop that gargantuan shell can be gained from munching on sand, stones or even concrete. These immense snails could have a go at becoming proper city slickers!

Video: Ferangnl2009

Once they arrive in promising, new lands, it's times to commence domination. For this, they will need to increase their numbers. No problem!

Consider Achatina fulica. They're hermaphrodite, so if two similarly sized individuals meet up they'll both fertilize each other's eggs. If they're very different in size only the larger one will act as a female. Either way, the female or females will lay 5 or 6 clutches of eggs during the year. Each clutch is buried underground and is made up of about 200 eggs, adding up to a total of over 1,000 per year.

Image: Timur V. Voronkov
Baby Achatina fulica!
The hatchlings are tiny but they grow up really quickly. They're ready to mate after about 6 months, though they'll still keep growing after that and may live for a total of some ten years.

In this way, a whole new colony of snails can become established by a single individual who happens to have eggs to lay. From this great leader an army is raised to march on mucus-covered feet to attack human civilization right in the salad. Isn't it the strangest, most unexpected threat you've heard?

Image: Timur V. Voronkov



Crunchy said...

When I was younger I had a pet aquatic snail. Not quite this chunky but still a very decent size. I loved how it would crawl along the wall of its tank and leave a perfectly clean stripe in the algae growing on the sides.

Then one day I had one big snail and like a thousand little tiny snails. And then I had to get rid of my snails. :(

Joseph JG said...

Awwwww... that's an emotional rollercoaster of a story!

TexWisGirl said...

so what you're saying is these and cockroaches will take over the world! well, and squirrels, too...

Joseph JG said...

Hahah! Precisely. Sounds like quite the post-apocalyptic party!

Porakiya said...

I can see why these would make such popular pets. Easy to feed, pretty shells, adaptable, and almost no chance of losing it

Joseph JG said...

"almost no chance of losing it"

You'd think so, but somehow a lot of them seem to be escaping!

Porakiya said...

GASP! :O They must be super secret spy agents! Like Perry the Platypus/Agent P!

Joseph JG said...

These are strange goings on! I wonder what adventures they're having?

Crunchy said...



Snail! :D

Joseph JG said...

I love that little snail!

Lear's Fool said...

Ooh. . . everyone's Email has a little snail in it! Awesome!

natsukah said...

Imagine walking on the street with of these cute things on your shoulder xD

Joseph JG said...

@Lear's Fool: You can never get the snail out of mail!

@natsukah: It looks like it would legitimately weigh you down. You'd need a massage afterwards!