Giant snails invade Florida!

Achatina fulica: the giant African land snail.
Achatina fulica: the giant African land snail.Courtesy motnworb
We’ve seen it before. Through the years the human race has had to endure attacks by giant creatures of all sorts.

First, a humongous lizard larger than any known dinosaur crushes Tokyo and incinerates the rubble with his bad breath. Then super-sized spiders from another dimension terrorize northern Wisconsin only to be reduced to sludge by clever scientists. Later, gigantic ants run amok in New Mexico destroying property and people until the US Air Force, Navy, AND the Army are called in to destroy them. And now on top of all that, there are reports that large numbers of giant snails are terrorizing south Florida. When will this madness end?!

Of course the first three examples are pure fiction. Godzilla never really existed, spiders from another dimension can’t enter ours through wormholes, and the idea of gigantic ants is just stupid. But unfortunately the giant African snails infesting south Florida are all too real. And as you can see by the accompanying photo these suckers are huge. Some can grow up to 15 inches in length and weigh two pounds! Think of the slime trail!

These giant African land snails (Achatina fulica) are illegal in many countries including the US, but it appears some have gotten in. The snails are sometimes used in a traditional African religious ceremony where practitioners ingest their slimy gastropod juices (goodness gracious!) and word is that a woman from Africa may have smuggled them through customs under her dress in 2010. Okay.

Like many invertebrates, giant snails are hermaphroditic, possessing both male and female reproductive organs. After mating each partner can produce offspring, as many as 200 at a time, and up to 1200 a year! These things are worse than rabbits… and as big as rabbits, too.

Look at the photo again. Whoa!

Two sisters in a residential neighborhood in Miami-Dade County discovered some of the snails in their yard and showed one to a fruit fly inspector who then alerted officials at Florida’s Department of Agriculture. The agency didn’t want to bother the armed forces so they canvassed about a square mile surrounding the sisters’ house on their own and hand removed all the giant African land snails they could find. A few days later they scoured the area again and found even more.

The problem with this particular species of giant snail is that it likes to eat about 500 different types of plants, and can sometimes carry a strain of non-fatal meningitis that’s contagious to humans through contact with the gastropod (like drinking its juices – duh), so eradication of A. fulica is deemed a high priority.

This isn’t the first time Florida has been invaded by giant African land snails. In 1966, the state spent about a million bucks getting rid of 18,000 of them.

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Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

That's interesting! I never knew that!!!

posted on Sat, 10/15/2011 - 11:23am

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