- Slides: 17
The Giant African Snail Adaptive and Damaging
The Giant African Snail’s scientific name is Achantina fulica.
Original Distribution The Giant African Snail originates from the coastal area of East Africa, particularly in Kenya and Tanzania. Its first sighting was in the 1800’s. However, the snails can thrive and are found in most areas with humid, tropical climates.
Identification Full grown, this snail can reach up to 20 cm in length and 12 cm in diameter. Its shell is usually dark and light brown and swirls wrap around it cone like shell. The rest of the body resembles a slug.
Photo of a Giant African Land Snail
Site and Date of Introduction These snails were first spotted in the 1940’s in San Pedro, California. Since then, this snail has been transported and distributed throughout the United States. It has been found in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, along the coastlines, and in the southern states.
Modes of Introduction The Giant African Snails most often came into California on shipments containing goods and plants from Hawaii, Guam, and the Pacific Islands. It has also been transported through illegal pet trade to pet stores and educational institutions.
Fast establishment The Giant African Snail begins laying eggs at 5 -6 months old. A single snail can produce from 300 to 1000 eggs in 3 -4 batches per year. The eggs usually hatch 8 -20 days after mating. Their lifespan lasts about 35 years.
One Example of Fast Establishment In 1966, a Miami boy smuggled three Giant African Snails into Florida from his vacation. His grandmother released them into her garden, and in seven years, there were more than 18, 000 of them. The Florida state eradication effort took more than 10 years at a cost of one million dollars.
Diet The Giant African Snails diet consists of over 500 different plant species, including cocoa, papaya, peanut, beans, peas, and cucumbers. In addition, they forage on animal matter, lichens, algae, and fungi.
One Ecological Role During less favorable conditions (dry, cool), they nest in loose soil during their period of hibernation. This can promote health in the soil as the soil is being churned. However, with over population, the snails destroy and pollute their surroundings, including the soil.
Some Benefits of the Giant African Snail Many beetle species consume the Giant African Snail such as the lampyriad and the coprine beetle. The domesticated duck and a variety of other bird species also eat the Giant African Snail.
Threats of the Giant African Snail The greatest threat to humans is this snail carries eosinophilic meningitis. This condition is caused by the rat lungworm parasite which is transferred by eating the snail, in which some humans consider the snails a delicasy. In addition, the snail can carry a gramnegative bacteria which causes a wide variety of symptoms in people with a weak immune system.
Other Threats of Giant African Snail The snail causes great economic loss for farmers due the large amounts of vegetation it consumes. Not only does it decrease the income for farmers, but it also impacts their living conditions and decreases food resources for humans, animals, and other species.
Control Level Diagnosis The Giant African Snail is considered one of the most damaging land snails in the world. Therefore, it is designated as “high priority” for the need to be controlled and/or eradicated immediately after the first sighting in a given area.
Control Method Molluscicides have been designated as an effective method to eradicate the snails. The downside is that most molluscicides damage the soil, plants, and other organisms (such as beetles and earthworms). Iron phosphate is another way of eradicating the snails with fewer negative impacts on other beneficial organisms. Education provides a great opportunity to decrease and eventually stop the illegal trading and importation of the Giant African Snail.