This week we are going to take a look into a curious species, the African Giant Snail
Common name: Giant African Snail
Species: Achatina fulica (Bowdich 1822)
Size: 5 to 10cm (adults may exceed 20cm in shell length)
Weight: average 32g
Average life span in the wild: Average of 5 to 6 years (can be up to 9)
This giant snail has a narrow, conical shell, which is twice as long as it is wide and normally contains 7 to 9 whorls when fully grown. The shell is generally reddish-brown with some weak yellowish vertical markings, but the colour can vary with environmental conditions and diet.
Achatina fulica is originates in the coastal areas and islands of East Africa. This species can be found from Mozambique in the south to Kenya and Somalia in the North. This snail as also been introduced into many different countries, as for example Brasil, USA and Australia. This is not a migratory species and has been introduced by anthropogenic activities as agricultural transportation, commerce, trade, vehicle attachment, smuggling and some other accidental or purposeful ways.
This species is an obligate-outcrossing hermaphrodite, which means that one externally fertilised snail can establish a population. They can lay up to 100 eggs in their first year and up to 500 in the second year.
The fertilized eggs of this species are laid in a nest, or in the dirt and leaves as a form of protection and disguise of the eggs. Eggs hatch in anything from a few hours to 17 days and the snails mature at around 5 to 15 months, depending on the temperature.
Herbivores, feeding primarily on living and decaying vascular plant matter. The food is located by the specimen by its sense of smell, being mainly attracted to garden crops. This snail has a remarkably broad range of host plants on which it feeds and seems to prefer soft textured banana, bean and marigold.
Achatina fulica has an economic importance as a medical and protein source. Considerable amounts of this species’ meat are exported to Europe and America from Asian countries. In addition to farming for meat Achatina fulica is used as laboratory animal in temperate regions outside Africa.
Global Invasive Species Database (2017) Species profile: Achatina fulica. Downloaded from http://www.iucngisd.org/gisd/species.php?sc=64 on 30-03-2017.