The Giant African Land Snail (GALS in short) is one of the largest terrestrial snails in the world. It is also known by its scientific names: Achatina fulica, Achatina marginata, Achatina achatina and it is part of the Gastropod family. Due to its large size and distinctive features, he looks very exotic. That exotic look makes it very desirable by people who collect unique animals. With the social media trends, they also became a star of a few YouTube channels, Instagram and TikTok.
Maybe you already have a pet snail and are thinking of upgrading or just thought of getting one. But you need to understand that this species is not one to be treated lightly. This beautiful snail is on the list of the 100 most harmful alien invasive species. This is according to the United States Department of Agriculture. It can eat over 500 different plants and a lot of them. Causing excessive damage to crops all around the world. It is officially illegal to own one in the US.
Descriptive Features Of The Giant African Land Snail
- Class: Gastropoda
- Family: Achatinidae
- Genus: Achatina
The snail itself is around 2.8-inches in height and 7.9-inches in length. An adult snail can weight over 1 oz (30 g). It has a conical shell that spans around twice the height than it is in total width. The coiling of the shell is found to be either clockwise or anti-clockwise. When looking at the spirals and the coloration of the shell depends greatly on the diet and the region it is found.
When looking at the shell itself, the most common color is found in the standard brown shell. The discoloration of the shell heavily depends on the metal content found. This species has a shell with the highest metal content. when compared to almost any other snail found on the planet.
Natural Habitat And Distribution
Native to the East of Africa, the GALS is found in countries like Kenya and Somalia. However, it has been found as far south as in parts of Mozambique. In later years, the distribution has been significantly altered due to the pet trade. At first, it was found in West African countries like Ivory Coast and Ghana.
Since it thrives in hot and mild climates, they can adapt to almost any country close to the equator. The trade of the snails has resulted in it being widespread, with China being one of the first countries it was found that is not on the African continent in 1931. Nowadays, it is found as far as the United States, with constant eradication taking place in states like Florida.
The National Food Safety and Quality Service (SENASA) has dedicated itself to detecting and studying the species since 2010.
Ecology Of The Giant African Land Snail
If you are to understand any animal, you must look at the ecology of the animal. The ecology will give you insight into their habits and understanding the habitat of the snail. It is great for study or to understand them from an invasive point to prepare eradication:
As mentioned, the habitat of the snail tends to be around the equator and they like to set up camp in mild or hot conditions. It is worth noting that even though it is found in numerous locations, the release of these animals into the wild is considered illegal due to the pest they have become for crops and agriculture.
What They Eat
They are known for eating a variety of different plants. According to many studies, it can eat as many as 500 different plant species. It is a herbivore snail but is considered a macrophytophagous herbivore. This means that aside from plants, it has also been known for eating paper and cardboard.
Since calcium is one of their main feeding needs, these snails have been seen feeding on concrete and small bones. In rare cases, they will even feed on each other due to the nutrition found inside the shell. It is believed that they need 18.28% of crude protein in their diet when it comes to having optimal growth.
The Life Cycle
When looking at the lifespan of these snails, it is worth noting that they live up to 7-years, with 5-years generally being the shortest for their lifespan. There have been rare cases in which they were found to live up to 10-years. However, this generally happens when they are kept as pets and do not need to deal with the wilderness and predators.
When you look at the anatomy of the GALS, one will find that it has both testes and ovaries. This means that it can produce both sperm and ova. In theory, they should be able to self-reproduce, but these situations are also rare.
Courtship is generally the preferred method of reproduction and much like other snails, it can take around 30-minutes for courtship to take place. Transferring the gametes can take up to two hours and the sperm can be carried in the body for up to two years. They can drop around 200 eggs in a single go and they can do this 5-7 times per year.
Much like other snails, the list of predators is universal. The biggest predator for this snail is the caterpillar. However, beetles also tend to feast on it. As mentioned, these snails also feed on each other, which makes other snails also part of the predator group for Achatina Fulica.
Much like other snails, there are plenty of parasites associated with the Giant African Snail. They are big carriers of parasites and they can spread to others. The Aelurostrongylus abstrusus and Angiostrongylus cantonensis are some of the most common. However, there are a couple more that these snails can be contaminated with.
Eradication Of the Giant African Land Snail
The Giant African Snail is considered a pest in most parts of the world. Its eradication is common in most Western Countries and quarantine is a useful method for containing the snail. In the United States, it has been given top quarantine significance and the goal is to rid the United States of the species.
While they are used for religious purposes in certain areas of the world, the snail is known to carry many parasites. These parasites are harmful to humans, with some of them causing meningitis in humans as well. In some European countries, they are also popular as pets, but mostly sold for educational purposes.
Marla is our newest content contributor. She is a mother of 2 lovely girls and recently added Gizzle, a garden snail into her family. She started in Escargot World as a graphic designer but our cute snails just won her over. She writes about snail pets and snail facts.