The lifespan of the Giant African Land Snail, or even flora and fauna varies according to their species.
Some can live for just a few hours like the Mayfly and others can stay up to a decade like elephants and even century like the sea whales.
The size notwithstanding, a small animal may outlive a big animal as with the case of the snails; the crawly slimed creatures and the mice!
The lifespan of any organism depends on its habitat, size, food sources, and of course their defense strategies. The life cycle of animal progress through various stage with some stages longer than another; their lifespan notwithstanding.
Natural predators, environmental changes and food availability can shorten the lifespan of an organism that should live for even more. Snails that can live for 10years can be picked up by man for food or crushed at 2 years for instance.
Lifespan is the length of time that something is expected to live and function for. Lifecycle on the other hand is the process or stages that something goes through from life inception till death.
A quick look at the life of mayfly shows that the fly starts life in an egg form and depending on the specie, the eggs can stay on water for months or even years.
When they finally become nymph, they climb out of the water or molts and become an adult mayfly; however, the adult mayfly can only live for twenty four hours!
Snails are very interesting animals to study for several reasons. They have an amazing way of surviving harsh weather, make a healthy meal and of course are an inspiration to science and technology! Lets take a look at the lifespan of the giant African land snail.
The Average Lifespan Of Snails
A snail is unique as you can to some extent determine how old the snail is by looking at its shell. How long they live depends largely on the habitat as they can survive for a long time when in captivity and shorter in the wild.
Snails generally can live for about 1 to 10 years in the wild and up to 25 years when in captivity. With all things being equal; without threats from predators, harsh weather conditions, a snail will outlive a mouse.
However, lifespan varies differently from one snail specie to another; their habitat, defense mechanisms and predators. Aquatic snails can live between one to two years only depending on their size while others can live for a decade or more like the large sea mollusks. Large land snails can live for five years and even more.
Snails maintain the same shell they were born with, improve the hardness by taking calcified food and gains more rings in its shell every time it grows. Surprisingly, snails grow till they die although the rate at which they grow becomes slower as they age. The number of rings on a snail shell can help to determine its age.
The Lifespan Of Giant African Land Snail
Native to East African and residents in almost all parts of the world, this land snail specie has come to stay whether we like it or not. They are commonly found on the African soil and are a delicacy in many cultures and religions with some few exceptions.
The lifespan of a snail starts from when the eggs are laid, how long it takes to hatch, when they reach sexual maturity and when they die.
Lifespan Of The Giant African Land Snail Egg
The giant African land snails and most other land snails lay about 200 eggs during the breeding season which is not weather determinant in the case of the giant African land snail. They are generally hermaphrodites, mate and both lay eggs.
These yellowish to whitish eggs are laid in clutches in small holes which we can also call nests dug by the snails in the wild and by the snail farmers when in captivity. They go ahead to cover the eggs with some soil and plant matter to protect them from the sun, being crushed on or eaten up by predators.
The eggs begin to hatch from 7 days after being covered to almost a month. Note that not all the snail eggs would hatch especially when in the wild; there is still a significant number of eggs that would hatch successfully when the snail farmer uses an incubator to hatch them.
The snails grow right inside the eggs as tiny little hatchlings with their shell growing too. They come out as whole snails having soft transparent shells and do begin eating immediately especially on the remnants of their shells. This shell becomes hardened as they grow and feed on calcium rich food; snails do not shed their shells, it grows with them for life.
The left over shell serves as a source of valuable nutrients and calcium for them and this calcium make their shell harder and stronger. The stronger the snail shell, the more likelihood for the snail to survive during difficult weather and predator attacks.
Sexual Lifespan Of The Giant African Snail
The giant African land snail reaches sexual maturity from about 5 months of age and they keep producing eggs until they die. The older they get, the more eggs they are capable of laying and hatching successfully.
Lifespan of The Adult Giant African Snails
Many people will argue as to when a snail becomes an adult; well, there is no set age for a snail reaching adulthood. It is however assumed that adulthood begins once the snail reaches sexual maturity. This can be from few weeks of life to months depending on the snail specie.
An adult snail however can be recognized by the size, hardened shell and the rings on the shell. Since snails grow till death, their soft muscular bodies grow alongside the shell year in year out.
A cracked snail shell can be a sign of mineral deficiency such as lack of calcium due to diet and usually not representative of old age.
Other Factors That Affect Lifespan Of The Giant Snail
Human beings are classified as snail predator here as well. This is because they may not reach maturity before they are harvested for food and other purposes. When it comes to garden pests, snails and their cousin slugs are often top on the list and are quite difficult to control.
Therefore the use of pesticides and other chemicals that boost agricultural activities can affect the snails and probably kill them.
Other predators include rodents, ants and reptiles that can attack them for food or just an accident.
The natural environment of snails is wet, cool and moist places. When this is not possible the snails may go into hiding and aestivate for months or even die before reaching the peak of their life. Theses environmental changes can be natural or manmade.
When a snail is picked up and introduced to a habitat that is not favourable, they tend to die off gradually.
The giant African snails are known to consume over 50 varieties of fruits, vegetables and plants. They can consume anything that looks like food including cement, paper and stucco especially when starved. They can also become cannibals; feeding on one another and their young ones in extreme cases.
Despite being an environmental friendly creatures and an important component in the ecosystem, the lifespan of snails generally should not be determined by man and our activities.
Even when a snail is considered as a pest, it is best to keep them away from farms and probably turn them into delicacy than just wasting their lives. LOL.
Snails are interesting creatures and a part of our lives in various forms other than being pests and delicacies! Technology and Science will definitely have a way of reminding us about these crawly slimed creatures