Lissachatina Fulica is a huge land snail that belongs to the Achatininae subfamily of the Achatinidae family. The Giant African Land Snail is another name for it. Other snail species with the popular name “giant African snail” include Achatina Achatina and Archachatina Marginata.
Giant African land snail species have long been thought to be a major source of pest problems across the world. It is the most widely distributed invasive snail species on the planet.
Giant African land snail thrives in a variety of habitats in moderate climates outside of their native region. It feeds voraciously and serves as a vector for plant infections, wreaking havoc on crops and natural species alike.
It is a pest in urban environments, competes with native snail species, and carries human illness. Giant African land snails are considered to be among the World’s Top 100 invasive species.
The species is endemic to East Africa, but it has spread far over the world as a result of the pet trade, as a food source, and by accident. African land snail is also found in China, Taiwan, India, the Pacific, Indian Ocean islands, and West Indies.
They are also found in the USA. African land snails were imported in the USA mainly for educative and petting purposes. Giant African land snails almost took over South Florida after their accidental arrival in 1966.
To discover and destroy them, the state spent over $1 million and surveyed almost a million properties. The work paid off, almost 18,000 species were wiped out over the next seven years. The invasive giant snails were declared eradicated by Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in 1975.
The snails reappeared in 2011, most likely as part of an illicit religious shipment. They began in Miami-Dade County and quickly moved to adjacent Broward County. Florida again spent more than $24 million to get clear of them this time, and there have been no new sightings in Florida since 2017. The state’s agriculture commissioner declared the snails destroyed once more in October 2021.
Giant African land snail is a species that is also found in Bhutan. It grew there as an invasive species and is continuing to trouble in the agricultural lands and flower gardens.
It’s suspected that dogs died after eating the snail and contracting the rat lungworm, which causes Eosinophilic Meningitis in humans when they consume the snails raw or even accidentally ingests them with other food items. The illness caused by the snails can be fatal.
Individuals of the species have been discovered in the humid and subtropical Argentine Mesopotamia since 2010. The National Agricultural Health Service has launched a mission to detect, research, and prevent the spread of this pest.
Early in April 2021, United States Custom and Border Protection captured a shipment of prohibited quarantine products being smuggled into the US from Ghana and the African snails were one of them.
The adult snail has a maximum diameter of roughly 7 cm (2.8 in) and a length of 20 cm (7.9 in) or more, rendering it one of the largest known land snails.
The conical shape of the shell is nearly twice as long as it is wide. The coiling of the shell can be seen in either clockwise (dextral) or counter-clockwise (sinistral) orientations. The dextral cone is more common in the African land snail.
The color of the shell varies greatly and is influenced by nutrition. Brown is usually the prevailing color, and the shell is ribbed. The shell is extremely robust and contains the highest amount of heavy metal of any snail species.
The Giant African land snail is indigenous to East Africa, with origins in Kenya and Tanzania. A single snail can generate colonies, making it a very invasive species.
In many regions, releasing animals into the wild is prohibited. Despite this, the species has established itself in certain temperate areas, and it currently has a wide range of habitats in humid tropical and subtropical environments.
They are found in wetlands, forests, agricultural areas, shrublands, urban areas, riparian zones, and coastland.
The Giant African snail is a Macrophytophagous herbivore that consumes a variety of plant materials, including fruit, vegetables, lichens, fungus, paper, and cardboard.
As calcium supplies for its shell, it occasionally eats sand, extremely small stones, cadaver bones, and concrete. Snails, snail eggs, and other dead small animals like mice and birds are occasionally consumed by the snails.
This species can be given a variety of fruits and vegetables or boiled eggs in captivity. Cuttlefish bone and even eggshells, which are often used as calcium sources and are essential for proper shell growth can be given to them. For healthy growth, they require about 20% crude protein in their diet.
This species is a hermaphrodite, which means that each individual possesses both testes and ovaries and can produce sperm and ova. Around 5–8 months, the testes mature first, followed by the ovaries.
Because self-fertilization is not possible, snails must reproduce with a mate. Snails usually mate with snails of the same size. Snails either transmit gametes to each other simultaneously (bilateral sperm transfer) or one snail transfers sperm to the other during mating (unilateral sperm transfer).
Giant African Snails are oviparous, meaning they lay shelled eggs. On average, two hundred eggs per hatch and five-six clutches per year are produced. After one to seventeen days, the eggs hatch. They attain adult size in around six months, after which they slow down but do not stop growing until they die.
The snails have a life expectancy of three to five years in the wild and five to six years in confinement, however, they can survive up to ten years in captivity.
Snails spend their days in dark, moist locations, such as buried in soil or leaves and are most active at night. In times of extreme drought, they can aestivate for up to three years by secreting a calcareous compound that dries when it comes into touch with the air.
African land snail has been reported to be infected with a variety of parasite species. Feline lungworms and rat lungworms that infect cats and rats respectively are also known to be infecting African land snails. Other parasites are kinds of tapeworms, flatworms, and roundworms.
African Land Snails as Invasive Species
This snail is a pest that affects agriculture and households in many regions. This snail is capable of transmitting both human and plant illnesses. Strict quarantine is suggested as a preventative approach to preventing invasion and transmission.
In the United States, African land snail has been designated as a national quarantine concern. In the past, quarantine officers on the mainland of the United States were able to intercept and destroy invasions that were at an early stage.
They are also known to cause harm to buildings by consuming calcium-rich materials such as stucco and similar materials.
The parasitic rat worm, which can cause very serious meningitis in humans, is often seen in the wild with this species. Human cases of this meningitis are mainly caused by eating a raw or undercooked snail. It even happens while contacting alive wild snails that can infect a human, resulting in a life-threatening infection.
To lower the population of the giant African snail, an attempt has been undertaken in some areas to encourage its usage as a food resource. However, fostering a pest in this manner is a problematic decision, as it may promote the deliberate spread of the snail.
To biologically control the invasion of African land snails, one particular disastrous attempt was taken on South Pacific Islands. During the Second World War, colonies of African land snail were kept as a food reserve for the American military but it unfortunately escaped.
Other carnivorous species of snail called Florida Rosy Wolf snail were then introduced by the Government to control African land snails. But the carnivorous species preyed on another species of snail namely Partula snails and this caused the extinction of their species.
These snails are offered to the deity Oxalá by some Candomblé practitioners in Brazil as a religious offering. The snails are a close relative of the African giant snail (Archachatina Marginata), which is commonly found in Nigeria. The appearance of the two species is similar enough to please religious authorities.
If cooked properly, they are also edible. This species is eaten in the form of fried snail meat, a delicacy among traditional drinking snacks in Taiwan. Larger species show potential as small, practical livestock. African land snails are the most common land snail seen in Chinese marketplaces.
Snails have also grown in popularity as pets in nations such as France and the United Kingdom, where companies have sold the species as both a pet and an educational tool. The African land snail is amongst the most popular snails for sale in pet stores.
Acharan sulfate, a heparinoid, is extracted from this species of land snails. Heparinoid is a medicine that is used to reduce swelling and help in healing.
African land snails make excellent pets since they are simple to care for. They can survive for several years and reach a length of twenty centimeters. The snails are the most active at night as they are nocturnal.
Giant African Land Snails should be handled like any other pet, with the same level of care and hygiene. These snails carry Salmonella bacteria like many other pets such as caged birds or tortoises. As a result, after handling or cleaning the snails, one should carefully wash and disinfect their hands.
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