The Giant African snail (Achatina fulica) is a species of large, air-breathing land snail, a terrestrial pulmonate gastropod mollusk from coastal regions of East Africa. It can reach 8 inches (20 cm) in length, with the coneshaped shell making roughly half the total length. The soft, moist body of the mollusk is protected by mucus-producing layer of cells that provides an initial physical trap and barrier to colonization by pathogens. The regular production and shedding of body mucus is effective in cleansing the surface of pathogens. One of the mucus components, acharan sulphate, provides a chemical barrier which has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. 1,2
As the Giant African snails develop rapidly and produce a large number of offspring, this species is now listed as one of the top 100 invasive species in the world. It is a voracious feeder, affecting agriculture and natural ecosystems. In the United States the Giant African snail is an invasive species only in Hawaii now, but it is frequently smuggled into other parts of the United States, risking establishments of new populations elsewhere.
Giant African snails are not picky eaters, consuming at least 500 types of plants, and they will occasionally eat even concrete to obtain calcium for their shells. They will also eat rat feces which often contain parasite larva. People who consume these mollusks may become infected with lungworms, which can cause meningitis.
- Invertebrate Immunity. Kenneth Söderhäll (editor)
- Inhibition by acharan sulphate of angiogenesis in experimental inflammation models
- Encyclopedia of Invasive Species, Volume 1. Susan L. Woodward, Joyce A. Quinn
Giant African land snail Achatina fulica
Photo by Larysa Johnston