I love sketching the shells of these snails, so sculptural….
Achatina fulica is a species of land snail in the family Achatinidae, known commonly as the giant African land snail.
Outside of its native range this snail thrives in many types of habitat in areas with mild climates. It feeds voraciously and is a vector for plant pathogens, causing severe damage to agricultural crops and native plants. It competes with native snail taxa, is a nuisance pest of urban areas, and spreads human disease. This snail is listed as one of the top 100 invasive species in the world!!! Native to East Africa, it has been widely introduced to other parts of the world through the pet trade, as a food resource, and by accidental introduction.
I have a very different view of this beauty, an artist’s and naturalist’s view, seen here photographed by me at Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge, in its home range- in the lowveld of Zimbabwe, where it fits so aptly into its environment…
this fabulous creature has a persian carpet mantle……
a quizzically stunning face….
a glowing multi-hued shell…..
and a rich history in the folklore and current clan beliefs of the Chauke Changana clan in our area. (Check out my next blog for THAT lovely story!)
Meanwhile, thinking sex (why not!), here is my awesome photo of two snails mating , taken on the footpath at Chilo on a rainy day….
This species is a simultaneous hermaphrodite; each individual has both testes and ovaries and is capable of producing both sperm and ova. (Instances of self-fertilization are rare, occurring only in small populations). They have intriguing mating behaviour, including petting their heads and front parts against each other. Cute! Courtship can last up to half an hour, and the actual transfer of gametes can last for two hours.
I watched these two for over an hour, and after mating these two just crawled away…
Transferred sperm can be stored within the body for up to two years. The number of eggs per clutch averages around 200. A snail may lay five to six clutches per year with a hatching viability of about 90%.
Juvenile snails are tiny, easy and tasty prey for any bigger animals…
If they are lucky, dult size is reached in about six months, after which growth slows, but does not cease until death. Life expectancy is commonly five or six years in captivity, but the snails can live for up to ten years.
The giant African snail is capable of aestivating for up to three years in times of extreme drought, sealing itself into its shell by secretion of a calcerous compound that dries on contact with the air.
They are active at night and spend the day buried underground.
Is snail slime the next big thing in skincare? ….please don’t tell me that collagen-enhancing mucus is set to be a super-ingredient in mainstream cosmetics……they say the mucus is extracted and the snails live to tell the tale, but I hear it involves salt…hmmmmm.
And the latest facial massage in Russia is delivered by giant snails…
And of course, as much as Achinata likes to consume precious crops…
it is also considered deliciously edible by various people…
Except by the local Xangana people, amongst whom the snail is honoured.
The Chauke Clan rever the Giant snail as their clan “totem”….never to be harmed.
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