Many snail delicacies are prepared using the Achatina fulica snail specie especially in Africa where they abound. The giant African land snail has a unique size and is easy to cut into big halves but what other things can we learn about them? Lets take a look!
The Giant African Land Snail called Achatina fulica is a popular land snail in Africa and some other parts of the world.
They are true to their name as they can grow to about 20cm in length with a shell length of about the same 20cm and a weight of about 250g.
The spiral shelled conical shaped snail specie is usually brown in colour with dark bands across the spiral although diet may affect the colour gradient.
This snail specie is very rugged as they can thrive in many types of habitat including mild climates.
It eats so much that they are invasive and banned in some parts of the world due to their taste for over 50 varieties of fruits, vegetables and crops.
Occurrence Of The Giant African Land Snail
According to their name, these species are native to Africa and were believed to have their origin in the Eastern part of the African continent such as Tanzania and Kenya.
They crawled their way across the continent in the 19th century and were introduced to India and the Indian Oceanic Islands.
The Asian continent welcomed these species sometimes during the 20th century, the Caribbean and the US although they are now being eradicated in some parts of the US.
Due to their adaptive nature, these species can now be found in virtually all continents with of course various level of abundance.
Reproduction In Giant African Snail Specie
Just as with every other snail, the giant African snail specie are hermaphrodites reaching sexual maturity from about 5 months of life and lay eggs up to about 200 eggs after mating.
Also, the giant African land snail takes not less than 5 hours to perform their sexual ritual and produce viable eggs that would hatch in three weeks.
A very important aspect of their choosing a mate is that they do not just pick a mate at random. They mate according to the size and age of potential mates.
It is important to be sexually matured before mating because small sexually immature snails produces spermatozoa only, while larger sexually matured adults produce both spermatozoa and ova.
Some young snails however prefer older adults to mate with for personal reasons. LOL.
Giant African snail mating begins when a potential partner tastes potential mates slime and they court to test their compatibility.
Both snails then go ahead to mate transferring sperm simultaneously, an action that can take hours. The two snails then go ahead to lay eggs.
In a situation where the snails are not of the same size, the older snail assumes the role of a female while the younger snail assumes the role of the male transferring gametes into the bigger snail.
This form of mating is called unilateral mating.
The giant snail lays their eggs which is whitish-yellowish in colour in clutches repeatedly for about 8 days.
In addition, the eggs are small with diameter of 4mm, lay in small holes and covered with sand just enough to protect them from direct weather conditions and being trampled or eaten by predators.
The eggs are hatched between 1- 17 days with the snails emerging as juveniles. The newly hatched snails feed on the remnants of their shells to boost their transparent shell and make it calcified.
More so, the un-hatched eggs are also eaten up and in snail pen; they are to be discarded after 21 days of being in the sand.
A special reproductive secret of the Giant African snails is that they have no specific season when they mate; they are very able to produce new egg clutches every two to three months depending on the weather and mating partner.
Parasite Hosting Ability Of The Giant African Snail
The African giant snail is known to also be an intermediate vector of the rat lungworm parasite and also a gram-negative bacterium which causes health problems with different symptoms especially in people with compromised immune systems such as the regions with poor sanitation.
They can also host some type of flatworm and roundworms.
Symptoms of any infection caused by these snails can include abdominal pain and fever among others.
It is important to visit the health care facilities if you suspect having an infection or health issue from consuming or touching snails as some can be life threatening.
To avoid these health problems, it is important to wear hand gloves when picking these snails and proper washing of the snails off their offals before cooking and a proper cooking time observed.
Feeding Preferences Of The Giant African Land Snail
They are generally known to be herbivorous eating a very wide range of plants, fruits, vegetables, lichens, fungi and even paper and cardboards. They can sometimes eat sand, tiny stones and bones from dead organisms and then concrete as calcium sources.
When there’s scarcity of food, they can feed on one another, snail eggs and other dead animals such as bird and rodents. They can also eat boiled eggs, plain unseasoned meat and watermelon especially when in captivity.
The Bad African Giant Land Snail
The bad or ugly side to these snail species is that they are invasive species causing a significant economic damage to a wide collection of commercial crops, fruits and vegetables.
These snail species have been banned in some parts of the world and these countries would not welcome a live one in their land as they have witnessed firsthand the damage they can do.
They reproduce in large number and during the rainy reason can be so abundant destroying and eating everything in their path.
They do not only feed on greens, they can also feed on paper, stucco and similar materials for calcium and destroy buildings in the process. This is definitely a bad side to the giant African snails.
The Good African Giant Snail Specie
They may be pests but they have a good side to them as well. These species are known to make a very good and yummy delicacy. They can be prepared as soups, stews, barbeque and dried.
The giant African land snails are also kept as pets. Most snail farmers also rear these snails specie for huge profit.
The shell of the giant snail can also be crushed as a source of calcium for livestock feeds and as well as in soil treatment for snail rearing.
The giant African snail are a specie worthy of note with extra precautions taken especially when you have so many edible items around them.
Whatever your reason for having the giant African snail, remember snails are wonderful environmental friendly beings!