AppearanceThe adult snail is around 7 cm in height and 20 cm or more in length.
The shell has a conical shape, being about twice as high as it is broad. Either clockwise or counter-clockwise directions can be observed in the coiling of the shell, although the dextral cone is the more common. Shell colouration is highly variable, and dependent on diet. Typically, brown is the predominant colour and the shell is banded. The shell is particularly tough and has the highest heavy metal content of any snail species.
DistributionThe species is native to East Africa, but it has been widely introduced to other parts of the world through the pet trade, as a food resource, and by accidental introduction.
This species has been found in China since 1931 and its initial point of distribution in China was Xiamen. The snail has also been established on Pratas Island, of Taiwan, throughout India, the Pacific, Indian Ocean islands, Southeast Asia and the West Indies. The species was established in the United States in 1936. They were brought to the U.S. through imports. They were intended to be used for educational uses and to be pets. Some were also introduced because they were accidentally shipped with other cargo. Eradication is currently underway in Florida.
The species has recently been observed in Bhutan, where it is an invasive species. It has begun to attack agricultural fields and flower gardens. It is believed there that dogs have died as a result of consuming the snail and being infected by the rat lungworm,'' Angiostrongylus cantonensis''.
Starting in 2010, individuals of the species have been found in the humid, subtropical Argentine Mesopotamia. The National Agricultural Health Service has established an ongoing project to detect, study, and prevent the expansion of this pest.
In early April 2021, USCBP intercepted 22 being smuggled from Ghana into the US, along with various other prohibited quarantine items.
HabitatThe giant African snail is native to East Africa, and can be traced back to Kenya and Tanzania. It is a highly invasive species, and colonies can be formed from a single gravid individual. In many places, release into the wild is illegal. Nonetheless, the species has established itself in some temperate climates and its habitat now includes most regions of the humid tropics, including many Pacific islands, southern and eastern Asia, and the Caribbean. The giant snail can now be found in agricultural areas, coastland, natural forest, planted forests, riparian zones, scrub and shrublands, urban areas, and wetlands.
FoodThe giant African snail is a macrophytophagous herbivore; it eats a wide range of plant material, fruit, and vegetables, paper, and cardboard. It sometimes eats sand, very small stones, bones from carcasses, and even concrete as calcium sources for its shell. In rare instances, the snails consume each other, snail eggs, and other deceased small animals such as mice and birds.
In captivity, this species can be fed on a wide range of fruit and vegetables, plain unseasoned mince, or boiled egg. They should also always be provided with cuttlefish bone or egg shells, which are commonly used as a calcium source, vital for healthy shell growth. They require about 18.28% of crude protein in their diet for optimal growth.
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