The Giant African Land Snail is one of the largest terrestrial gastropods. They have a light to dark brown shells with vertical stripes of a darker shade of brown on them.
They have an average lifespan of about 5-7 years. When they have enough food, and the weather is satisfactory, they tend to live much longer. Some of them have been known to live up to 10 years.
The “Achatina fulica” is one of the most invasive species in the world and the Department of Agriculture in every country consider it as one of the most damaging species for agriculture and crops. It is known to eat at least 500 different species of plants.
This species is on the list of the 100 most harmful invasive alien species in the world, but Achatina fulica does not seem to surrender. This snail that stands out for its large size has easily adapted to life in regions outside its natural habitat and is considered one of the biggest land snails.
Distribution and Habitat
Although native to Africa, from Mozambique to Kenya and Somalia in addition to the nearby islands, this species has been introduced to many parts of the world over time and today can be found naturally in African countries such as Ghana, Ivory Coast, and Morocco. However, it lives now in Hawaii, Australia, islands of the Caribbean, islands, and regions of Asia, China, Bangladesh, Japan, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, New Zealand, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, and Vanuatu. In conclusion, the Giant African snail now dwells on all continents except Antarctica.
The Giant African Land Snails are hermaphrodite which means that they have the reproduction organs for both males and females, so they have the capability to self-fertilize, but they do not usually do it. They mate in the “traditional way.” However, sometimes young or immature snails only produce spermatozoa, while adults can also produce eggs.
In the pre-copulation stage, both snails approach and one of them locate behind the other and position above the shell. If the one underneath accepts it, it moves back, and the top snail begins copulation to transfer sperm and fertilize the eggs of its mate. In the case of snails of similar size, both can fertilize the eggs of the other simultaneously. Coupling usually takes place during the night.
About 8-20 days after intercourse, the snail puts between 100 and 500 eggs in a nest beneath the ground or between rocks and vegetation. Laying occurs every 2 or 3 months. Eggs hatch after 11-15 days, but the offspring do not receive any care from the parents.
They don’t have a defined breeding period, and on average they lay 5-6 clutches of eggs per year, containing on average 200 eggs per clutch if there are the right conditions. Therefore, delivering close to 1,200 eggs per year and with a hatch success probability of 90%, this species can quickly become a pest.
Threats and Conservation
The species is one of the most dangerous pests in agriculture and one of the least wanted animals, as it can transmit various diseases to both animals and humans given the parasites it harbors.
For a long time, people have implemented different strategies for the management and control of Achatina Fulica populations. In some countries, it is illegal to own these snails because of the danger they represent. In contrast, they are sometimes caught for human consumption, although this practice is hazardous to health.
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