Giant African snail

800px-Giant_African_Land_Snail

Profile

The giant African snail is, well, a giant snail native to Africa. The shells of these mollusks are normally a reddish brown color with yellow markings going out from the center. They can also be yellow, orange, or even pink! The color of the shells depends mostly on the snail’s diet. The photo below shows an overhead view of this snail’s shell, and you can see the spiral shape it takes. Even though it may not look like it, the snail pictured above is spirally as well, but the spirals extend backwards. Fully grown giant African snails usually have between seven and nine whorls or spirals in their shell. The shell shown below has about six, so it is probably not fully grown yet. The whorls can go either in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction depending on the individual. Giant African snails are mostly nocturnal, and they bury themselves underground during the day.

800px-Achatina_fulica_(Giant_African_land_snail)

Size

As you can tell by their name, giant African snails are rather large for snails. They can grow up to one foot (30 cm) in length, although some can be as short as just three inches (7 cm). The shells are normally about half as wide as they are long. As you can imagine, these animals also weigh quite a bit, for invertebrates at least. They can actually weigh up to one pound (450 g)! The snail shown below is not even full size!

800px-Giant_African_Snail_(Achatina_fulica)_-_An_Invasive_Species_in_Hong_Kong_(6164957561)

Diet

Giant African snails are fierce predators. They can hunt, chase, and capture lizards, snakes, and even mice! JUST KIDDING!!!! They are actually slow moving omnivores, but you probably already knew the first part. Their main foods are plant matter, both living and dead. Younger snails tend to eat softer foods like decaying matter and bananas. Adults may eat fungi, lichen, and even dead animal matter. Giant African snails are agricultural enemies because they can eat useful plants such as cabbage, bananas, cauliflower, and cacao.

Habitat and range

Giant African snails live in Africa (of course!). Their range is mainly in the middle of Africa north to south, but they can range to the coasts on the east and the west sides. This is their native range, but this snail is an invasive species in many areas including Australia, the Caribbean, and islands throughout the south Pacific. They can even live in the United States! Now giant African snails obviously do not travel this far with their own slow body. After all, they can only move about ten and a half feet (3.2 m) per hour! Instead, they travel across oceans by getting accidentally caught up in cargo, or even smuggled in on purpose. They typically prefer warmer climates as they come from Africa, but as they have been transported all over the world. They have adapted to survive in cooler climates, and even hibernate to survive cold weather. Almost any area not touched too much by humans is good habitat for giant African snails.

Speed

These snails, as I said just a little bit ago, are quite slow. Their top speed is debated. Some places say they are as slow as just 3 feet (1 m) per hour! Others say they can be as fast (I use that term loosely) as 200 feet (61 m) per hour.

Weird fact

Prepare to be grossed out. Giant African snails are sometimes used in beauty treatments! I know it seems crazy to use something disgusting to make something else look better, but in some countries people actually think it works. In some beauty salons people will let these snails, and maybe others, slide around on their face. The snail slime is thought to rejuvenate the skin and remove wrinkles. The craziest thing is, people actually pay for this!

Status and threats

These snails have not yet been classified by the IUCN, but I would assume if they were, they would be ranked ‘Least Concern.’ This is because they are invasive species, and if a species is considered harmful and invasive, it is probably thriving. Most times humans kill these snails, it is to keep the snails from harming the environments in to which they have been introduced. Some of the giant African snail’s natural predators are crabs, rats, wild boars, and fire ants. Although one small ant won’t eat an entire snail, an entire colony can feast on one. As you probably already know, snails will retreat into their shells when they feel threatened. This may help against larger animals such as rats and boars, but it may not protect against smaller predators such as ants.

Reproduction, eggs, and young

The mating of giant African snails is quite a weird phenomenon. Adult snails can act both as males and as females, and after mating, both individuals will often lay eggs. After mating, the snail can wait up to two years before laying its eggs! The eggs, up to 500 of them, are laid usually among rocks or in the dirt. Older individuals can lay more eggs. Eleven to fifteen days after the eggs are laid, they hatch. Because they live near the equator where the temperature is warm all year, these animals can mate year round, and they will often mate up to 6 times per year! Once they reach the age of six months, the young snails are ready to mate for their first time. In the wild, giant African snails usually survive for three to five years, but they have been known to live up to ten years!

Don’t forget to scroll down and comment your guess about what the next animal is!

Leafy_Seadragon_on_Kangaroo_Island

Sources:

Photo credits:

  • Giant African snail – Sonel.SA
  • Giant African snail shell – Obsidian Soul
  • Giant African snail on hand – Thomas Brown
  • Mystery animal – James Rosindell
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