One Hell of a Snail

Achatina fulica is a species of large land snail that belongs in the family Achatinidae. It is also known as the Giant African land snail. It shares the common name “giant African snail” with other species of snails such as Achatina achatina and Archachatina marginata.

This snail species has been considered a significant cause in pest issues around the world. Internationally, it is the most frequently occurring invasive species of snail.

Outside of its native range, this snail thrives in many types of habitat in areas with mild climates. It feeds voraciously and is a vector for plant pathogens, causing severe damage to agricultural crops and native plants. It competes with native snail taxa, is a nuisance pest of urban areas, and spreads human disease. This snail is listed as one of the top 100 invasive species in the world.

The species is native to East Africa, but it has been widely introduced to other parts of the world through the pet trade, as a food resource, and by accidental introduction.

This species has been found in China since 1931 and its initial point of distribution in China was Xiamen. The snail has also been established on Pratas Island, of Taiwan, throughout India, the Pacific, Indian Ocean islands, Southeast Asia and the West Indies. The species was established in the United States in 1936. They were brought to the U.S. through imports. They were intended to be used for educational uses and to be pets. Some were also introduced because they were accidentally shipped with other cargo. Eradication is currently underway in Florida.

The adult snail is around 7 cm (2.8 in) in height and 20 cm (7.9 in) or more in length.

The shell has a conical shape, being about twice as high as it is broad. Either clockwise (dextral) or counter-clockwise (sinistral) directions can be observed in the coiling of the shell, although the dextral cone is the more common. Shell colouration is highly variable, and dependent on diet. Typically, brown is the predominant colour and the shell is banded. The shell is particularly tough and has the highest heavy metal content of any snail species.

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