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African Giant Land Snail

Appearance

The giant African land snail’s body is comprised of 2 parts’. One is their conical shaped shell. This includes 7 to 9 whorls. The shell colour changes based on the environment where the animal lives. It is dark brown or reddish. It is banded with yellow stripes. The snail’s shell grows with them.

The second part of the body is the foot. This is muscular and covered with mucus. Attached to it are the eye’s and mouth. It can be fully retracted inside the shell.

Giant African land snail’s may measure up to 20cm (7.9in) long and weigh up to 32g (1.13oz).

Diet

Giant African land snails are herbivores with an extremely wide-ranging diet. They feed on a variety of plant’s, vegetables and fruit. They eat over 500 different plant varieties. Their diet includes a wide range of commercially farmed crops making them a pest in several agricultural areas.

These animal’s benefit their ecosystem by breaking down decomposing organic matter and recycling the nutrients.

Giant African land snail’s will also feed on the bones of dead animals and sand, so they can get extra calcium for their shell growth. In rare instance’s they may eat another snail.

Scientific Name

Achatina Fulica

Conservation Status

Not Evaluated

Height

20cm (8in)

Weight

32g (1.13oz)

Lifespan

Average 3-5 years

Maximum 10 years

Diet

Herbivore

Range

The native home of the giant African land snail is east Africa. Here they can be found in Mozambique in the South through to Kenya and Somalia in the North. While this is the African giant snail’s native home they are highly invasive.

Giant African land snail’s have also spread to a range of other countries across the world including islands in the pacific and Caribbean, Asia and the United States. They have moved there through a range of mean’s such as attaching to vehicles, agricultural transport and introduction from past pet’s.

Habitat

They are adaptable and can be found in a wide range of habitats. Their natural environment is tropical rainforests. They have become an invasive species in a range of temperate, coastal, wetland and forest environments as well as modified habitats such as farmland and urban areas.

Reproduction

Mating occurs year-round with snails able to breed once every 2 to 3 months allowing for numerous clutches in a year. Mating take’s place at night.

Giant African land snails are hermaphrodites and as a result both may produce eggs when they breed. If one is smaller they may take on the role of the male and not produce eggs. Unlike some other snail species they can not self fertilise they need to mate to produce offspring.

The number of eggs produced following mating will vary based on the snail’s age. These eggs are laid within 8 to 20 days of mating occurring. They may produce up to 500 eggs.

These eggs only take 11 to 15 days to hatch. This interval is determined by the climatic condition’s in the area where they are laid.

It takes 6 months to reach adult size though their growth rate slows at this size instead of stopping. They will grow slightly until the end of their life.

Behavior

Outside of mating giant African land snail’s lead a solitary existence.

They are active at night. During the day they bury under the ground away from the elements and potential predators.

Predator’s of the giant African land snail include rats, crabs, ants, wild boars and other snails. Their hard shell helps to protect them from being eaten by a range of animal’s.

When water is scarce this specie’s can enter aestivation where they seal their body in the shell to retain water for long as possible. This process may last for up to 3 years’.

Quick facts

In some places giant African land snails are kept as pets while in several places they are invasive pests and owning them is against the law. They are considered one of the top 100 most invasive species in the world.

Giant African land snails are also used as a food source in some places though they can carry some diseases.

Photo Credits


Top

By Charlesjsharp [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

Bottom

By J.M.Garg [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

References

Global Invasive Species Database (2020) Species profile: Achatina fulica. Downloaded from http://www.iucngisd.org/gisd/species.php?sc=64 on 23-04-2020.

Hoffman, T. and N. Pirie 2014. "Achatina fulica" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 23, 2020 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Achatina_fulica/

Belfastzoo.co.uk. 2020. The Zoo | Giant African Snail. [online] Available at: <http://www.belfastzoo.co.uk/animals/giant-african-snail.aspx> [Accessed 23 April 2020].

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